Confession Details How Boko Haram Uses Stolen Cars to Support Terrorism Operations
Stolen cars provide a cheap way for Boko Haram operatives to amass VBIEDs and pass through security checkpoints, according to a captured member's confession. He also revealed internal fighting over loot, which analysts say could be a sign of increasing fragmentation.
Carjacking provides Nigerian jihadists Boko Haram a regular supply of cars for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and helps members of the sect pass through security checkpoints undisturbed. The cars also provide a source of revenue for the group, according to confessions of a recently captured Boko Haram boss.
"We snatch those vehicles at gun point. We use the less exotic ones for suicide bombings and just load vehicles with bombs, drive them near our target, park, get out of it and leave them to explode thereafter," Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa told authorities while in custody. Qaqa was arrested by the Nigerian State Security Service around February 2. African media reports that Qaqa is a pen name and that his real name has not yet been released.
Boko Haram's name comes from a term meaning "Western education is sinful." The group initially emerged in the early 2000s targeting churches and government buildings. Fundamentally, the group is loosely modeled on Afghanistan's Taliban , Reuters says. Government officials say evidence shows links between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda .
After a government crackdown, Boko Haram reappeared roughly two years ago and has been responsible for shootings and numerous VBIED attacks in Nigeria, including a bombing campaign in January that left 185 people dead in the northern city of Kano. After the attacks police found 10 more vehicles filled with explosives and hundreds of other explosive devices.
Qaqa says exotic cars are stolen for personal use by Boko Haram leaders and later sold to raise funds. He also said more expensive cars were used to pose as VIPs to bluff security agents at checkpoints, AllAfrica.com reports.
Low–expense operations like carjacking continue to give Boko Haram operational success in recent attacks, says Jay Radzinski, intelligence manager at Max-Security Solutions , a geo-political risk consulting firm that focuses on integration intelligence and ground support.
“The use of more expensive cars to deceive authorities is not surprising. The fact that Boko Haram is against material luxury is of little significance when carrying out 'Jihad'. Such militant groups are known to compromise with such 'values' for the betterment of their operational goals. Such behavior makes compromising groups even more difficult to map and target and thus, bringing up the need for the aforementioned tactics,” he said by e-mail on Thursday.
Qaqa also noted that internal fighting was a problem as a result of favoritism among members. More powerful figures would provide 'disbursements of largesse' to other members based on tribalism and favoritism, angering members who didn’t benefit.
“Further fragmentation within the group could be recently seen with some Boko Haram members being killed by others and contradicting reports surfacing from the group with regard to its willingness to negotiate with the government,” Radzinski said.
Boko Haram has no central chain of command or leadership, said Radzinski, so this type of conflict – arguments over disbursements of largesse -- could be a catalyst for more fragmentation.
Boko Haram operations are going to be difficult for security forces without using undercover operatives to identify leadership, counter surveillance to prevent attacks, and “skilled personnel, who can adapt to new counter terror methods, as militants quickly evolve and adapt to new situations,” Radzinski said.