. Why America Couldn’t Trace Terrorist Group’s Source of Funds
The Boko Haram terrorist organization has been consistent as a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian government and its people for some years, killing thousands and maiming many others.
Efforts of the Federal Government to curtail and contain the activities of the group which started as a religious sect have so far not yielded much result. Not even the United States Government’s declaration of Boko Haram as a terrorist group stopped the killing and maiming.
The group was recently named as the 7th richest terrorist group in the world, an indication that freezing the assets of the group is of minimal effect.
As the United States, Nigeria and others struggle to track and choke off its funding, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials who closely follow Boko Haram provide the most complete picture to date of how the group finances its activities.
Street Journal’s findings have revealed that freezing the accounts of Boko Haram is as good as a wink in the dark. The group is not known to operate accounts both locally and internationally.
As such, it is difficult to strangle them financially especially as the group operates with the use of human couriers who have access to all cadres of the Nigerian society.
The notion being held that the funding of the Boko Haram group came mainly from Al-Qaeda has since been found to be erroneous. Checks revealed that the sect got support from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s organization. That however was at the outset of the group’s operations as a terror gang.
Street Journal found out that the first set of rifles used by Boko Haram were the ones snatched from policemen when the members of the sect still carried sticks, cutlasses, swords and cudgels as their main weapons. Some were also gathered to have been provided by serving military personnel sympathetic to the group’s cause.
By the time the first suicide bombing however took place in June 2011, members of the sect already had boots on the ground in Sudan, Mali and some other places where its members received training.
The need to buy weapons was usually gratified through bank robberies. Those were the days when bank robbers surprised people by throwing part of their loot in the air for people to scramble for. Street Journal’s findings also revealed that the Boko Haram group has the habit of paying compensation for their suicide bombers. Checks revealed that Mohammed Manga, who carried out Nigeria’s first suicide bombing at the Police Headquarters got about N 4 million for the feat.
One other major source of funds being harnessed is high profile kidnapping. This has been attested to by the United States Government as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Linda Thomas-Greenfield disclosed that “our suspicions are that they are surviving on very lucrative criminal activities that involve kidnappings”.
For instance, early in 2013, a French family of seven was kidnapped while holidaying close to the Nigerian border in Cameroon by Boko Haram members. Street Journal gathered that the terrorist group received about $ 3.1 million as ransom before Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his wife and four children, and his brother were released.
It has also been difficult to track Boko Haram’s international transactions mainly because most of their arms deals are done within the African continent by trusted hands who act as cash couriers. They move across the borders with ease.
Incidentally, the sect relies mostly on AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, some anti-aircraft guns and other small firearms. Most of their bombs are manufactured using homemade materials.
The group’s weaponry usually increases each time it launches an offensive against military formations. An example is the February 2014 attack on an anti-terror Task Force in the Gwoza region of Borno State. There, 200 mortar bombs, 50 rocket-propelled grenades and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were carted away by the terrorists. Members of the group have also been able to snatch a number of armoured personnel carriers from soldiers.
Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan has asked the legislature for permission to source for a loan to fortify the military towards combating insurgency.