The recent spate of brutal attacks in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a local terrorist group professing allegiance to Al Qaeda, has drawn attention to West Africa as the next regional battleground against violent global jihad.
But the operative word here is local, not regional—despite such worries in parts of Africa and the West.
This week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon shared a report with Nigeria’s foreign minister that raised “growing concern in the region” about possible links between Boko Haram, based in Nigeria’s Muslim north, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM.
Senior U.S. officials, too, are worried about such a connection, as well as links to Al Shabaab, in Somalia. As if to verify such concerns, Nigeria has closed its borders to prevent entry by outside Islamist militants.
But in Nigeria, no less than in Pakistan, a fanatical ideology often cloaks far more local economic and tribal rivalries. This deep rooting in very local political contexts and economic ambitions actually hampers the terrorists’ efforts at forging pan-African jihad.