Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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Press Releases

Taliban Resurgent in Nigeria?
News reports from northern Nigeria indicate that a group of Islamist radicals have executed some 13 policemen in what could be a resurgence of the Nigerian "Taliban" or other al Qaeda-affiliated group.

The movement is not new. It first surfaced in 2003, but was widely believed to be eradicated. However, there have been many indications in recent months that radical Islamists were regrouping. The attack is the first fruit of that resurgence.

I tip my hat to J. Peter Pham, who earlier this year wrote about the Return of the Nigerian Taliban.

In his piece he commented on the January trial of a group called Media Trust Ltd., on trial in Abuja on three counts of terrorism. According to the indictment, the Trust director, Mohammed Bello Ilyas Damagun received $300,000 from al Qaeda accounts in Sudan with the intent that "said money shall be used in the execution of acts of terrorism."

The attacks come as Nigeria is undergoing two-part elections: for the parliament last weekend and, this weekend, for the successor of president Obasanjo. Violence is already flaring following credible reports of massive voter fraud and registration irregularities.

There is no doubting the strategic interest in Nigeria. It produces more than 12 percent of U.S. oil supplies, is the dominant regional economy in West Africa and a potential base for terrorist expansion across West Africa. In addition to radical Islamists in the north, the Niger Delta, where the oil is pumped, is constantly on edge because of the numerous well-armed gangs in the region who routinely kidnap foreign workers and have a running battle with the government.

The electoral process has exacerbated a precarious environment in the northern part of the country, where 12 of the states (out of 36) are already under strict _sharia_ law. It is also an region that has been particularly targeted and talked about by Osama bin Laden as an area for al Qaeda expansion. In his 2003 al Jazeera broadcast, bin Laden specifically mentioned Nigeria as ripe for jihad and deemed the secular government there to be apostate.

As Pham reports:

_The "Nigerian Taliban," which refers to itself as the Muhajirun ("migrants") movement, first appeared around 2003 and was composed, like the Afghan group whose name they adopted, primarily of religious students. Inspired by the latter's vision of an Islamic state run in accord with an extremist interpretation of the Muslim faith, the Nigerian radicals abandoned Maiduguri and, like the prophet of Islam Muhammad who left Mecca for Media, "migrated" away – although in this case the "migration" (hijra) meant moving from the city to the rough bush of Yobe state near the border with Niger._

_Descending from their wilderness retreat, the young militants raided the Yobe state capital of Damaturu in early 2004, attacking police stations. Later that same year, the militants tried to launch a guerrilla campaign around Gwoza, in Borno state near the Cameroonian border. According to press reports – interestingly, the most extensive "inside access" articles were by written by a certain Abdullahi Bego who published in the Weekly Trust – the Nigerian insurgents wanted to establish an Islamic state and pronounced Muslims who opposed them to be "unbelievers" deserving of death._

All of this points to efforts, like those in Somalia, of the _jihadist_ forces to create new fronts in an effort to bleed us dry. Nigeria, with its oil production and acceptance of strict _sharia_ law in part of its territory, is a particularly attractive target with a potentially hospitable base.

The establishing of new fronts, and the potential for Islamists in Nigeria to ally with the GSPC and other militant groups on the continent, are dangerous developments that have profound and far-reaching policy implications.

The Wrong Decision on Sudan
The Islamist Charm Offensive
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