Peter Pham, a Nigeria scholar at the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington, has revealed that most of Boko Haram’s weapons are not bought, but stolen from the Nigerian military troop.
This was disclosed as Reuters interviewed more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials who closely follow Boko Haram. The obtained information provides the most complete picture to date of how the group finances its activities.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Pham said the terrorists pay local youths a few pennies a day to track and report on Nigerian troops movements.
U.S. officials acknowledge that the weapons that have served Washington so well in its financial warfare against other terrorist groups are proving less effective against Boko Haram.
On how the group finances its activities U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said they suspect the insurgents are surviving on very lucrative criminal activities that involve kidnappings.
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The U.S. Treasury normally relies on a range of measures to track financial transactions of terrorist groups, but Boko Haram appears to operate largely outside the banking system.
According to some of the officials who were interviewed, Boko Haram’s inner leadership is security savvy and so they use hard-to-track human couriers to move cash around the country. They also rely on local funding sources and engaging in only limited financial relationships with other extremists groups.
“They’re quite sophisticated in terms of shielding all of these activities from legitimate law enforcement officials in Africa and certainly our own intelligence efforts trying to get glimpses and insight into what they do,” a former U.S. military official said.
The Treasury Department had in statement declared that the United States has seen evidence that Boko Haram has received financial support from al-Qaeda, an offshoot of the jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden. But officials with deep knowledge of the sect’s finances say that any links with al-Qaeda or its affiliates are inconsequential to Boko Haram’s overall funding.
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There are insinuations that Boko Haram receives support from religious sympathisers inside the country, including some wealthy northern Nigerians who dislike the government, although there is little evidence to support that assertion.
Boko Haram now appears to be the biggest security threat to Nigeria as their attacks are becoming a daily occurrence. The United States and other world powers are cooperating with Nigeria to gather intelligence on the sect, following the abduction of more than 200 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno State on April 14.