COVID-19: Al-Qaeda, Infiltrating North West, US Alerts Nigeria

The United States yesterday shared very crucial intelligence with the Nigerian government, alerting that Al-Qaeda terrorists were gradually infiltrating the country through the North West zone.

Specifically, the US Africa Command (US AFRICOM) warned that the Al-Qaeda terrorist group and ISIS were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to progressively take over the West African Region after losing ground in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East.

Commander of the US Special Operations Command, Africa, General Dagvin Anderson, who stated this during a digital press briefing, noted that the terror group was already deploying several strategies to silently re-establish themselves in the region and expand further in the entire continent without drawing attention.

Of late, there had been a surge in attacks in North West states, including Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to acknowledge in a rare interview last Friday that the scale of insecurity in the zone and its neighbouring North East zone were becoming “very, very disturbing”.

During the media briefing, Anderson noted that America will continue to partner with Nigeria in sharing intelligence.

The Commander said, “We have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intelligence sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing. And that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in Borno state and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaida starting to make some inroads in.

“So, this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the government of Nigeria to provide them an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaida are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas.”

He hinted that the Al-Qaida sect has already expanded in Mali, and have moved into northern Burkina Faso, where they attacked infrastructure, took out local governance and security forces, and are now controlling the local economy and exerting their control over the population.

“And we’re seeing them continue to move further south in Burkina Faso towards those littoral nations in the Gulf of Guinea, and also further west towards Senegal and West Africa. So that’s concerning to us as we watch them continue to move throughout the region”, the Commander said.

He also described as very concerning that some local terrorist groups that had local grievances now are being galvanized into a larger ideology and a larger movement.

He noted that al-Shabaab, another affiliate of al-Qaida, was already driving that instability in Somalia to destabilise the region and the horn of Africa.

He also disclosed that the extremist group was exploiting the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis is in the Sahel to gain deeper roots in the region and in the West with the west with Islamic State-West Africa and Grand Sahara.

Anderson said the jihadists were already moving down the east coast of Africa, adding that they have already established affiliates or leverage local grievances and consolidated those into their larger movement in DRC and Central African Republic and down towards Mozambique, as well as in Somalia.
Anderson stated: “So as we see both Islamic State and al-Qaida take their overall methodology, their ideas, we see them leverage local grievances and spread their ideology, which is concerning; it should be concerning not only to the United States but to the international community.

“They are looking to Africa to try to find a means to re-establish themselves. And we can’t forget that al-Qaida has African roots and has a lot of African connection as well. That’s very concerning to us because it’s a deliberate strategy, and part of that strategy is to be quiet about how they act, how they expand. They’re not looking to advertise a lot of what they’re doing.”

The Commander said Africa needs to be conscious of their plot and understand how to counter it, adding that violent extremism is limiting huge potentials in Africa.

He continued: “We have seen the violent extremist organizations, these terrorists, take advantage of these conditions over the last five years especially. Al-Qaida has had a very deliberate campaign to exploit these seams and grievances and to expand their reach, especially into the west.

“We’ve seen that they’ve taken advantage of this also by closing schools, so they – they take away the future. They eliminate that future by shutting down these schools: over 9,000 schools across Africa shut down; 3,000 in Mali and Burkina Faso.

“That is very concerning to us because what does that mean for future development, for future opportunities for people that live in these regions? And what does it mean as these violent extremist organizations then replace those schools with their ideology and their teachings, which we believe is antithetical to a free and open society and prosperity?

He further stated that the solution to the problem is not only military but an all-encompassing approach.

Meanwhile, the presidential task force on COVID-19 announced yesterday that Nigeria will receive the 250 ventilators promised the country by United States President, Donald Trump today.

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