Ansaru: Boko Haram Splinter Grouping Sows Terror in Nigeria

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 9:47 PM

Distant less infamous, however, is a Boko Haram splinter grouping known as Ansaru. This organization came to the fore latest weekend after the Nigerian military claimed to have captured its leader — a militant commander with a $5 million U.

Ansaru: Boko Haram Splinter Grouping Sows Terror in Nigeria

Ask anyone to title a Nigerian militant grouping and chances are they'll mention Boko Haram, the Islamist sect that was ranked latest year as the world'south deadliest terror organization.

Distant less infamous, however, is a Boko Haram splinter grouping known as Ansaru. This organization came to the fore latest weekend after the Nigerian military claimed to have captured its leader — a militant commander with a $5 million U. south. State Dept bounty on his head.

Here'south what you necessity to know:

What'south Ansaru?

Ansaru is one of several militant organizations operating in Nigeria and has been classified as a terrorist grouping by the United States, the United Nations and others. The grouping'south full title is the "Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in Black Africa."

Some of its leaders were once members of Boko Haram, but Ansaru splintered off and declared itself an independent organization on Jan. one, two thousand twelve.

Over the following few years, it claimed a string of kidnappings and killings against Westerners in northern Nigeria, and analysts believe the grouping has links with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which claimed a fatal attack on an Ivory Coast hotel latest month.

Ansaru'south stated goal is to "defend Muslims throughout all of Africa by fighting against the Nigerian government and international interests," according to the State Department.

While Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS latest year, the International Crisis Grouping has described Ansaru as "Nigeria'south al Qaeda franchise," due to its links with that network.

Why's it necessary now?

While Ansaru has been fairly noiseless for the past couple of years, Nigeria'south military claimed on April two that they'd captured its leader, Khalid al-Barnawi. If this is confirmed, it'd represent a significant win for the country'south security forces.

The U. S. classified Barnawi as "specially designated global terrorist" in June two thousand twelve and the State Dept slapped a $5 million bounty on his head. "Barnawi and Ansaru have committed multiple acts of terrorism against civilians and Nigerian government officials," according to State'south Rewards For Justice program.

However, some experts have disputed the military'south claim.

Nigerian security analyst Fulan Nasrullah told Reuters that he'd received assurances the militant was alive. "Khalid'south people and I've spoken and they've said that he's free and wasn't captured," Nasrullah told the news agency. "They have number photos of him, nor do they know any concrete information about him."

How powerful is it?

Small is known about Ansaru'south command structure or the no of fighters at its disposal.

The State Dept said that its "total membership is unknown" but well-known that "given its narrower scope of operations, it's estimated that Ansaru'south membership is much smaller than that of Boko Haram's."

But what the grouping lacks in numbers it makes up for in expertise.

"Conventional wisdom is that Ansaru'south operatives are better educated, better trained, and much more international in outlook than those of Boko Haram," John Campbell, former U. S. ambassador to Nigeria, wrote in an article Monday for the Council on Foreign Relations, where he's presently a senior fellow.

Some of the men who'd go onto lead Ansaru are believed to have received training from AQIM in the Algerian desert.

"The experience gave them more sophisticated skills and a global jihadi orientation," the International Crisis Grouping said. "They disapproved of Boko Haram'south random attacks, preferring high-profile killings and targeting Western interests."

How violent is it?

Although it's not carried out anything love the same level of bloodshed Boko Haram, Ansaru'south brief history has been punctuated by several high-profile kidnappings of Western hostages.

Before it announced its existence, the group "may have" been responsible for the kidnapping of the British and Italian construction workers Christopher McManus and Franco Lamolinara in May two thousand eleven, according to the Combating Terrorism Middle at W Point.

Both men were killed less than a year later during a rescue attempt by U. K. and Nigerian forces.

Ansaru was believed to be behind the two thousand thirteen kidnapping of German construction worker Edgar Raupach, who was also killed during a rescue attempt by Nigerian security forces.

The grouping also claimed responsibility for kidnapping and then killing seven construction workers, including a Briton, a Greek, an Italian and four Lebanese people, from the town of Jama'are in Feb. two thousand thirteen.

"They have engaged in a no of kidnappings most of which are mostly Western targets," Doctor Hakeem Onapajo, a postdoctoral fellow at S Africa'south Univ of Zululand, told NBC News in an email.

Onapajo also well-known that in some of these kidnappings "a enormous quantity was reportedly paid as ransom."

What's its relationship with Boko Haram?

After splintering from its parent group, Ansaru'south leadership made several public statement'south condemning Boko Haram'south ruthless and random killing of fellow Muslims.

One of its leaders appeared in a video in June two thousand twelve, proclaiming that his grouping would "not murder innocent non-Muslims, except in "self-defense" and that they'd "not murder 'innocent security operatives'" unless they attacked first, according to a translation by the Jamestown Foundations' Militant Leadership Monitor.

Another video attributed to Ansaru latest year saw the grouping condemn Boko Haram's "physical and bomb attacks at Muslims and public places such as mosques, markets, and motor parks," a transcript by the Long War Journal said. "These acts are contrary to the teachings of Islam."

Ansaru has also opposed Boko Haram's "rather obnoxious leadership," Murray Last, emeritus Prof of anthropology at Univ College London, told NBC News. He said there was "quite a lot of antipathy" between the two groups, "particularly because Ansaru wasn't keen on killing other Muslims."

However, some experts have suggested this rift has since been mended, evidenced by Ansaru becoming quieter over the past two years.

"There are reports that they've since resolved their differences," said Onapajo at S Africa'south Univ of Zululand. "We haven't been reading much about them. I think they've been working below the framework of the larger Boko Haram."

Although this appears nothing more than speculation at this point, State Dept said the theory is plausible. "Ansaru maintained a working relationship with Boko Haram and during two thousand fourteen may have rejoined with the larger group," it said.

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