ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria's national security adviser warned on Monday that the country's Boko Haram Islamists were increasing ties with other African extremist groups.
“Of immediate concern to us today is the increasing cooperation between the Boko Haram group in Nigeria and established terror groups operating in the Sahel," the east-west band across northern Africa, Sambo Dasuki told a conference on regional security.
Boko Haram has said it wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, and members are believed to have sought training with al-Qaida's north Africa affiliate in northern Mali.
It has however not been known to have operational links with outside groups. Dasuki did not go into specifics on the hotly debated question of Boko Haram's ties to other extremist movements.
The United States has labeled three Nigerian Islamists — including Boko Haram's presumed leader Abubakar Shekau — as global terrorists, but has withheld that designation for the group as a whole on grounds that its primary focus is domestic, among other reasons.
Some Nigerian authorities have in the past sought to portray Boko Haram as being linked to outside forces, though many analysts stress that it has been born and bred in Nigeria.
Deep corruption and poverty in the north of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, have helped feed the violence linked to Boko Haram, some analysts say.
Dasuki said cooperation was needed in the fight against extremists.
“Since terrorist activities in one part of the region or world are capable of affecting the other part, we have come to the realization that the fight against terrorism is not a one-man, one-agency, one-nation or one-region fight,” he said.
He said that Nigeria was seeking “an all-encompassing counter-terrorism strategy tailored to suit our peculiar situation” and was collaborating with international partners.
In Mali, domestic groups joined with fighters from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in an offensive that captured the country's entire north in March.
Mali's neighbors and the West are concerned that the desert area the size of France could become a safe haven for Al-Qaida-linked groups, although there is evidence of the Islamists' alliance fracturing.
Boko Haram is believed to include a number of factions with varying aims, in addition to imitators and criminal groups who carry out violence under the guise of the group.
Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency is believed to have left more than 2,800 people dead in the north and centre of the country since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
© AFP 2013