Reports have started to surface of yet another militant threat that has emerged in Nigeria, which claims to be trained by Al Qaeda and specifically targets Westerners. The group known as Ansaru is said to have split from Boko Haram in January 2012 – the dominant Nigerian extremist group responsible for almost weekly shootings and bombings – and actively avoids targeting locals. According to one of Ansaru’s younger members, the group prefers to take a more calculated approach and so opts to kidnap and kill foreigners. The young militant further remarked that “any white man who is working with them – we can kidnap them, everywhere!”
Ansaru is believed to be responsible for the December 2012 kidnapping of a French engineer, who is still missing, and the recent abduction and killing of two construction workers from Italy and Britain. It is also likely that the group was involved in the February 2013 kidnapping of a French family on the Cameroon-Nigeria border as well as the kidnapping of a German engineer in Kano last year.
The group’s headquarters are believed to be in the volatile northern regions of Nigeria. Ansura’s leader is a man known as Khalid al-Barnawi – the son of a Nigerian aristocrat who studied at a university in Khartoum, Sudan. He claims that the Nigerian government is a “puppet” of the west and has promised “hellfire” for any nonbelievers. The overall objective is also extremely similar to that of Al Qaeda in that Ansaru wishes to Islamise the Sahel.
Counter terrorism officials further believe that the group is more sophisticated than Boko Haram as they speak Arabic better and have stronger international contacts.