Nigerian Army Investigating Evidence of Foreign Fighters Running Boko Haram

NBC News

Evidence of a global Islamist insurgency is mounting, as Nigerian government forces recover captured video footage showing foreign fighters at the top of terrorist group Boko Haram.

It has long been suspected that the hard-line Boko Haram followers, who have been fighting for six years to turn Northern Nigeria into a fundamentalist Islamic State, have been receiving training and leadership from Islamist groups abroad. This has been difficult to verify but now Reuters reports the Nigerian army has recovered video footage showing senior figures from foreign Islamist groups leading the imposition of Sharia law on captured Nigerian territory.

It was reported in March that Boko Haram, whose roots are belied by the English translation of their name as ‘Western style education is forbidden’, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, having been connected to Al-Qaeda before.

One such video, not yet released to the public, shows a man in Sudaneese clothes handing down sharia law judgements before a large crowd of people in a ‘field stained with blood’, a black flag flying behind them. Because he speaks in Sudanese Arabic, a dialect extant over 2,000 kilometres away, another man stands by with a megaphone translating his proclamations into the local Hausa language.

The man speaks to the crowd, while another man dressed all in black, again in the Sudanese style, saying: “God ordered all believers to enforce his punishments… God ordered us to cut off the hand of the thief and flog the adulterer and adulteress”.

A number of men and women are then flogged. Others have their hands cut off. The graphic 30-minute film then shows a man buried to his neck and then stoned to death for contravening sharia law.

While Boko Haram was making serious progress against the slowly crumbling Nigerian army last year, the arrival of a number of battle-hardened South African mercenaries appears to have played a significant part in turning the tide against them this year. The men, who are predominantly older, white South Africans who experienced intense bush wars before finding themselves out of favour and out of a job following the end of apartheid have been playing a “major operational role” against Boko Haram, “whacking them in the evening hours”.

Referring to the mercenaries, who came with their own helicopters and planes, a source in Pretoria said: “They’re relics of apartheid… They love this gung-ho kind of stuff and they’re good at it”.