In an interview with Voice of America published on Wednesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan claimed that Boko Haram fighters are traveling to “ISIS camps” to receive terror training before relocating to West Africa and attacking northeastern Nigerian villages.
“Some Boko Haram fighters go to have their training in ISIS camps and come back,” Jonathan said in the video interview. He did not elaborate on where the Islamic State training camps were located, though in its piece about the interview, Voice of America writes that the president was referring to the Middle East.
The Islamic State has released numerous videos boasting of the amenities available at its terrorist training camps, including training camps designed for children. The camps are reportedly located mostly in Syria, though reports have indicated the Islamic State is actively operating both in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region and in Libya.
While the Nigerian government has confirmed that Boko Haram is working in tandem with the Islamic State, President Jonathan told Voice of America news, “We may not know the degree of linkages as to how much funds are coming in from them, the kind of volume of weapons coming in from them, the nationalities coming from them.” The training, he added, was visible to a military-trained eye on the battlefield.
President Jonathan went on to claim that Boko Haram’s presence in the northeastern Nigerian states of Yobe and Adamawa would be eliminated next week, while the military would strip them of all territorial possessions in Borno, the terrorist group’s home state, within three weeks. It is not clear what metrics President Jonathan used to make these estimates.
Presidential elections in Nigeria will be held on March 28, after being postponed due to Boko Haram violence in February.
Audio surfaced on the Internet last week of–allegedly–Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The overt pledge followed the release of a new ISIS-style execution video by the jihadist terrorist group, as well as reports indicating that U.S. intelligence had evidence that the groups were working together. Some terror experts believe the group will never forge official ties because of the Islamic State’s deeply entrenched racism against black Africans.
Nigerian newspaper Leadership reports that, while American media have cited sources claiming Boko Haram and the Islamic State are in communication, the State Department has not confirmed President Jonathan’s claims regarding the use of training camps. On that statement in particular, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told the press the United States was working to confirm the Nigerian president’s intelligence, but noted that Boko Haram had previously made similar pledges to drum up support from jihadists questioning the staying power of the group. “I think it’s important to also note that Boko Haram has previously pledged allegiance to both AQIM and al-Qaida in the past, but those pledges were assessed to be pledges of solidarity rather than any indication that its leadership planned to take orders from or allow these groups to usurp control,” she said. Psaki added that the United States had observed only “minimal operational cooperation” between the two groups.