Boko Haram, which once routinely claimed its attacks, has gone largely silent, starting speculation that the sect has split into smaller groups operating independently. That makes it increasingly difficult to know who is launching assaults in the north, like the January attack on the Emir of Kano Ado Bayero. At least three people died in the shooting and Bayero, who suffered injuries in the attack, has since left Nigeria for London with family members.
The shooting shocked Muslims in the country, as the emir once ruled the caliphate governing the region and is still looked upon as a spiritual leader. It also signaled no one was beyond the extremists’ violence that is sweeping across the north, as attackers have begun picking softer targets for their assaults, not just military and police.
Despite the crackdown by Nigerian security forces, it appears attackers are routinely crossing Nigeria’s borders to surrounding nations to train and regroup, analysts say. Some suspected Boko Haram fighters were seen even in Mali when Islamic fighters held its north, sparking the current French military deployment to the West African nation. That indicates Boko Haram has access to international training, weapons and finance, making the group an even greater and sustained threat to the region.
‘‘Boko Haram’s connections to militants in northern Mali, the Sahel and elsewhere in the Muslim world enable it to receive and provide support to other Islamist militias,’’ wrote terrorism analyst Zenn. ‘‘As a result, Boko Haram will be capable of surviving outside of its main base of operations ... if the Nigerian security forces drive out key leaders from Nigeria.’’
Jon Gambrell reported from Johannesburg and can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .