Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram, has fractured internally with a big faction splitting away from shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau over his failure to adhere to guidance from the Islamic State, a senior U.S. general has said.
Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, the nominee to lead the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said the internal division was illustrative of limits of Islamic State’s influence over Boko Haram so far, despite the West African group’s pledge of allegiance to it last year.
“Several months ago, about half of Boko Haram broke off to a separate group because they were not happy with the amount of buy-in, if you will, from Boko Haram into the ISIL brand,” Waldhauser said at his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Several months ago, about half of Boko Haram broke off to a separate group because they were not happy with the amount of buy-in, if you will, from Boko Haram into the ISIL brand.
Shekau, he said, had not fallen in line with Islamic State’s instructions, including by ignoring calls for Boko Haram to stop using children as suicide bombers.
“He’s been told by ISIL to stop doing that. But he has not done so. And that’s one of the reasons why this splinter group has broken off,” he said, adding Islamic State was trying to “reconcile those two groups.”
U.S. officials have in the past maintained that they have not seen any evidence that Boko Haram has so far received significant operational support or financing from Islamic State. The assessment suggested Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge had so far mostly been a branding exercise.
Waldhauser acknowledged differing opinions about how much influence Islamic State has actually had so far over Boko Haram, which won global infamy for its 2014 kidnapping of 276 school girls.
“They certainly have not given them a lot of financial assistance. So the point being is that perhaps improvement in tradecraft, in training and the like,” he said.
An insurgency by the militant group in north east Nigeria since 2009 has led to the deaths of more than 15,000 people and left another 2.3 million more displaced.