One of the “most horrific movements in the history of the world” is strengthening its links with Isis, officials have warned.
Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group waging a bloody insurgency across parts of Africa, swore allegiance to the so-called Islamic State last year and co-operation between the two organisations is increasing.
Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, commander of US special operations in Africa, said the groups clearly share “tactics, techniques and procedures,” from the way they conduct complex ambushes and set improvised explosive devices, to how they launch high-profile attacks on hotels.
A “large cache of different types of weapons” including machine guns intercepted by Chadian authorities on its way to Boko Haram from Libya.
“You can, I think, draw a conclusion,” Brig Gen Bolduc said, suggesting the weapons may have been sent by Isis from its strongholds along Libya’s coastline.
He called the Lake Chad Basic region where Boko Haram is launching its insurgency as “ground zero” the fight against extremism in Africa.
The nature of any operational links between the group and Isis has been unclear since Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, made a pledge of allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in March 2015.
He released a message urging other sub-Saharan jihadist groups to do the same, further increasing the group’s reach.
The move was a major coup for Isis, which re-named its affiliate Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah (West Africa Province).
Boko Haram has launched attacks on Chad's territory from its base in neighbouring Nigeria, while Isis and al-Qaeda in Libya to the north and Sudan and the Central African Republic are still recovering from years of interethnic conflict.
Chad’s strategic importance in the midst of the nations has been highlighted by a visit by Brig Gen Bolduc and American officials including Samantha Power, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
On the final day of her visit to the country on Thursday, she said she had discussed “increased partnership” against Boko Haram with President Idriss Deby.
“Boko Haram cannot be defeated by military means alone,” she added. “It is one of the most horrific movements in the history of the world, and in order to defeat it we need enhanced security efforts, political and governance reforms, and economic and social development.”
President Deby, who has survived at least a dozen coup plots and assassination attempts during more than 25 years in power following his own coup, rejected claims of forced disappearances involving his political opponents.
Ms Power also raised concerns about the “crackdown on freedom of protest, the shutting down of the internet and text messaging”.
After expanding its campaign of terror from Nigeria to Chad, Niger and Cameroon, Boko Haram was named the deadliest terror group in the world last year.
The Global Terrorism Index said it was responsible for 6,644 deaths in 2014 and that number is expected to have risen as its insurgency against Christians and local government continues.
As well as high profile terror attacks and massacres, the group has become notorious for large-scale kidnappings including the abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok.
America, Britain and other European nations are among those supporting the five-nation Multinational Joint Task Force’s intervention against Boko Haram.
More than 30 personnel from the British Army’s Royal Anglian Regiment were deployed to train Nigerian soldiers earlier this year.
“We stand united with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat the murderous Boko Haram extremists,” Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said at the time.
He committed to doubling the number of British personnel carrying out training in Nigeria this year, sending explosives specialists, medics and an RAF training team.
Additional reporting by AP
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