NBC News has spoken with anonymous US intelligence officials who claim there is “fragmentary evidence” to indicate that Boko Haram is in the planning stages of carrying out an attack on US interests in Nigeria.
NBC News spoke with several senior US intelligence officials, who declined to say where or how they received word of the potential threat but said the intelligence gathering was recent. The officials said the information further incentivized the US to locate Boko Haram’s “military assets” and figure out its senior command structure. The officials felt that one of the keys to bringing down the Islamist group is to acquire better knowledge about its leadership structure.
The intelligence officials said Boko Haram has decided to target US interests because of Washington’s involvement in trying to find the 276 missing Nigerian schoolgirls, abducted last month by the militant Islamist group.
Boko Haram’s intention to attack US interests is nothing new, according to a senior US counterterror official NBC News consulted. He said, “Boko Haram has a long standing interest in this… It’s consistent with what we’ve seen from them. Broadly speaking, its in line with what we are tracking.” Another intel official agreed with the aforementioned assessment. He noted that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has “long aspired his followers to carry out” attacks on US interests. Last year, the United States offered a seven million dollar reward for information on the whereabouts of Shekau.
In April, Boko Haram leader Shekau released a video in which he stated, “Let the world know that we have been enjoined by Allah to kill the unbelievers. We shall continue to kill those who strive to stand against the will of Allah by opposing shari’a. We don’t mind if we die doing this because it is even a blessing for us to die in this cause and gain paradise.”
Last week, Shekau’s rhetoric focused on mocking the United States along with the international community for failing to retrieve the abducted schoolgirls. The Boko Haram leader said in a 56-minute video, “We are stronger than America anywhere they are. If you want to defend, do so because I am ready. Where do you say you will come and look for me? Do you know where I am since all these days? You are just searching in vain by looking at every nook and cranny. I don’t have a land; anywhere I find myself is my land because all land belongs to God.” The jihadist leader continued, “Any amount let them spend; we will bring this country down. We are stronger than America anywhere they are. We will open a killing pool for all those who have insulted us like George Bush, Obama, and even [Goodluck] Jonathan.”