The CSS Blog Network

Boko Haram in 2016: A Highly Adaptable Foe

Courtesy of Surian Soosay/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 February 2017.

Significant security gains have been made in the fight against Boko Haram, but the war is far from over.

Last year marked the seventh year since Boko Haram re-merged following a heavy-handed crackdown on the group in July 2009. Since then, the outfit has employed violence in Nigeria and the surrounding region at a dizzying pace. In 2014, according to data collected by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), it was the world’s most deadly terrorist entity.

A lot has changed in the struggle against Boko Haram since then, including the advent of operations by the Multi-National Joint Task Force and the eviction of militants from most areas of territorial control.

This past August, the movement split into two factions. Long-time leader Abubakar Shekau favours a more indiscriminate attack profile, while the new Islamic State-backed Abu Musab al-Barnawi faction prefers to engage security forces directly (such as in Bosso, Niger in June). Despite these developments, the high rate of violence perpetrated by the group remains a consistent feature.

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Mumbai Terrorist Executed, But Will it Bring Peace?

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, one of the sites of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Photo: Trakesht/flickr

On November 21, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant and the only terrorist to be captured alive during the 2008 attack on Mumbai, was executed. The execution came after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a plea for mercy by the 25 year-old Kasab, a move that marked the end of a lengthy judicial process.

As soon as news broke about the hanging, online reactions poured in fast and furious. The news also rekindled debate about the death penalty in India and whether it was likely to deter or provoke future terrorist attacks.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), who rose to greater prominence after the Mumbai attack, immediately threatened that there would be more attacks. Pakistan’s Taliban also vowed to attack Indian targets.

B. Raman, a former Indian bureaucrat, commented on the dangers in his blog: » More

How Attacks on Energy Infrastructure Affect Colombia’s Citizens

Electricity cables in Colombia

Electricity cables in Baranquilla, Colombia. Photo: Lucho Molina/flickr

In the last few months, attacks on Colombia’s energy infrastructure by the FARC and ELN have increased. While such attacks affect the lives of many ordinary Colombians, they are most often discussed within the bigger issue of terrorism.

However, there are a few Colombian bloggers who offer different perspectives.

Alejandro Gaviria describes [es] the gloomy panorama of attacks up to late August 2012: » More

Connections Count

The spectre of homegrown attacks, photo: Josh Gross/flickr

America and Europe have experienced a string of terrorist attacks perpetrated by “homegrown” terrorists. But the term “homegrown” is often conflated with “independent”. There are in fact two types of homegrown terrorists: those with external support and guidance and those without. In recent years a clear pattern has emerged. Technically sophisticated attacks, such as the 7/7 attacks in London and the airline liquid explosives plot, have with almost no exception been carried out by terrorists who where homegrown, but had received substantial training and guidance from terrorist groups outside Europe, usually based in Pakistan. Terrorists who lacked the connections to established terror networks had to resort to more primitive methods such as shooting or stabbing.

This importance of hands-on training has been neglected in the hype surrounding “homegrown” terrorism. It turns out that it is more difficult than it was once believed to teach bomb making and other essential terrorist skills over the internet. One indication for this is that intelligence agencies still presume that there are only a limited number of proficient bomb makers within al-Qaida’s ranks.

The internet, however, does play a role in radicalization processes. In May 2010 British student Roshonara Choudhry tried to stab MP Stephen Timms for his support of the Iraq war. When interrogated by the police shortly after the crime, she said that video sermons by the radical preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, who resides in Yemen, had prompted her to “punish” Timms. She had also consulted an Islamist website which had called on Muslims to “raise the knife of Jihad” against MPs who had voted for the Iraq war in 2003. There is no question that Choudhry was not radicalized solely by watching a couple of videos featuring Al-Awlaki, but it is reasonable to assume that these contributed to her decision to attack Timms. » More