Boko Haram fighters are crossing Africa to receive specialized training from Al Shabaab fighters in Somalia, the country’s national security chief told CNN.
The Nigerian terror group were taught how to carry out suicide attacks and build weaponry in Al Shabaab training camps, said General Abdirahman Sheikh Issa Mohamed.
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Mohamed, who is the national security adviser to Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said that Boko Haram members were trained in the country between 2010 and 2012 in south central Somalia, areas previously controlled by Al-Shabaab.
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He added that he believed the Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram operatives are still “sharing tactical operational skills,” as well as “maintaining cyber and physical contact.”
Mohamed said the information had been shared with international partners, such as at the recent Munich Security conference in Germany, where the president of Somalia confirmed that Boko Haram and Al Shabaab had joined forces.
“We believe that the two violent extremist groups share more values and interest here in Africa than their mother group (ISIS and Al-Qaeda) would,” he added.
What do they want?
Boko Haram aims to impose Islamic law, or Sharia, in Nigeria and regularly carries out deadly attacks in the country’s north.
In the most recent attack this month, Boko Haram militants killed at least 30 people in a two-day onslaught. They raided villages, kidnapping women and children and looting food supplies.
However, some experts believe Boko Haram’s hold in the region has weakened considerably after an intensive campaign by the Nigerian military, forcing them to change their tactics.
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“The group now has a guerrilla strategy,” said Nigerian senator and former Boko Haram negotiator Shehu Sani.
“The capacity of the group to take territories has seriously been threatened with the onslaught by the Nigerian military, it’s impossible for them to take territories and their response is in line with the way Al Shabaab operates.
“They now have to stay in remote locations and go after soft targets such as schools and shopping malls,” he added.
Somalia targets Al Shabaab
Al Shabaab has also lost many port cities since the Somali National Army conducted a sustained campaign against areas occupied by its fighters, Mohamed said.
The militant group formed in Somalia a decade ago and wants to overthrow the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law.
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The group claimed responsibility for a recent bomb blast that blew a hole in the fuselage of a plane in flight.
Al-Shabaab’s attack on Garissa University in Kenya in April last year killed 148 people, most of them students. It was one of the deadliest attacks carried out by the militant group.
Mohamed added that the Somali government is also engaged in ideological warfare against terrorism by waging a religious campaign showing “to the average citizens that Al-Shabaab is neither Somali nor Muslim.”