Nigeria’s Islamists threaten new attacks


Nigerian security forces searched for a kidnapped German engineer on Friday as the Boko Haram Islamist group threatened new attacks in Africa’s most populous nation and top oil producer.
In an audio recording posted on YouTube, Abubakar Shekau said he ordered the coordinated attacks that killed at least 185 people in Kano on January 20 and vowed that the group would strike again.
“We were responsible,” said Shekau of the January 20 assaults, the deadliest ever attributed to the shadowy group.
“I ordered it and I will give that order again and again. God gave us victory,” he said.
The authenticity of the Hausa language message, which played above a picture of Shekau with a Kalashnikov set in the background could not be independently verified.
But the photo appeared to match with previous ones said to be of Shekau and the voice sounded similar to earlier recordings.
“We attacked the security formations because our members were arrested and tortured. Our women and children have also been arrested,” he said. “They should know that they also have wives and children. We can also abduct them. It is not beyond our powers.”
Boko Haram has previously said that it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s deeply-impoverished mainly Muslim north, charging the government with harassing Muslims and raiding Islamic schools.
“Soldiers raided an Islamic seminary in (the northern city) of Maiduguri and desecrated the Koran. They should bear in mind that they also have primary and secondary schools and universities, and we can also attack them.”
But after a meeting with governors from 19 northern Nigerian states early Friday, Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo denied that religious tensions were fuelling the Boko Haram menace in the country whose population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and a mainly Christian south.
“It is very clear that there is no religious problem, religious fighting in northern Nigeria,” Sambo told journalists.
Shekau was seen as Boko Haram’s second-in-command at the time of a 2009 uprising put down by a brutal military assault, after which the group went dormant for about a year before re-emerging in 2010 with increasingly sophisticated attacks.
There has been intense speculation about Boko Haram’s links to foreign Islamist groups, specifically Al-Qaeda’s north Africa franchise, known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Speaking to AFP a western diplomat downplayed the strength of those ties.
“I think there’s evidence of contact (with foreign groups), but in terms of operationally linking up with AQIM or extremist groups elsewhere, we don’t see Boko Haram as an Al-Qaeda franchise,” said the diplomat who requested anonymity.
In Kano, hit by a fresh blast on Thursday after armed men stormed a police station two days earlier, gunmen kidnapped a German engineer working with a Nigerian construction company Dantata and Sawoe.
Edgar Raupach was seized by men who “came and handcuffed him and put him in the boot and zoomed away,” said Kano police spokesman Magaji Majia.
Regional police immediately sent out an alert.