US, Nigeria to join forces against Boko Haram
The United States will support Nigeria’s battle against Boko Haram but will not send troops, its Ambassador, Terrence P. McCulley, said yesterday.
McCulley said the U.S. encourages Nigeria to reach out to residents in the North, especially the poor, while using security forces to target and apprehend terrorists.
He said the U.S. is also considering opening a consulate in Kano to burnish America’s own image among a people still suspicious about Western influence.
“That’s not on the table,” McCulley said. “No; absolutely not,” when asked about the possibility of US’ troops deployment in Nigeria by the Associated Press (AP).
Nigeria has been under increasing attack from members of Boko Haram. This year, the sect is blamed for killing at least 304 people, according to an AP count. At least 185 people died in Kano last month in the group’s deadliest assault yet.
Six policemen were reported to have been killed yesterday in Kano and Minna, Niger State.
“It’s of a great concern to us,” McCulley said. “We’ve seen an increase in sophistication, we’ve seen increased lethality. We saw at least a part of the group has decided it’s in their interest to attack the international community.”
The U.S. is working with the police to help them learn how to carry out forensic investigations, while a bomb expert from the FBI has been working with authorities on how to detect explosives planted by the group before they detonate, McCulley said. The U.S. also would be open to training Nigeria’s military in counter-terror techniques, though the country hasn’t asked for that assistance, the ambassador said.
“It’s not going to be solved exclusively by treating it as a security issue,” McCulley said. “It needs a holistic solution. Government needs clearly to have a targeted approach on security that targets the bad guys, that targets perpetuators of these horrible attacks and doesn’t injure innocent civilians or damage property.”
Intelligence-gathering also remains a concern for the U.S. in Nigeria, especially after a failure by American authorities to take seriously a warning about Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he boarded a U.S.-bound flight that he attempted to bring down with a bomb in 2009.
While McCulley declined to give details, he said “adequate systems” were now in place to receive such warnings and that the U.S. maintained “robust relations” with Nigerian intelligence agencies.