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|Boko Haram ‘bomber’ Videos Emerge As Islamist Fears Mount by ariy(m): 5:09am On Sep 18, 2011|
LAGOS – Videos have emerged purporting to show members of a Nigerian Islamist sect preparing for suicide attacks, including a young man said to be responsible for last month’s bombing of UN headquarters.
The two videos obtained by AFP are said to be from the sect known as Boko Haram and come as concern intensifies over whether it has formed links with outside groups such as Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
The possibility of such links has led to deep concern among Western nations and mounting pressure on the government in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest oil producer.
General Carter Ham, the head of the US military’s Africa Command, said Wednesday that Al-Qaeda’s north African branch, Shebab militants in Somalia and Boko Haram have expressed a will to “more closely collaborate and synchronise their efforts”.
Boko Haram’s attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated, and it had not been known to target international institutions before the United Nations bombing in Abuja.
A man who identified himself as a spokesman for Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing on the day of the August 26 attack.
The two videos said to be from the group include speeches totalling some 25 minutes from the alleged UN bomber.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the videos, but they seem to offer a window into a form of Islamist extremism in Nigeria that authorities have so far shown little capability of addressing.
They bear hallmarks of past Boko Haram clips and feature speeches by a man identified as Abubakar Shekau, its suspected leader who went into hiding following a 2009 uprising by the group put down by a military assault.
While the sect was long considered a domestic group targeting symbols of Nigerian authority, the videos also show an international emphasis.
They are mostly in the Hausa language widely spoken in the country’s mainly Muslim north, but also partly in Arabic.
The voice said to be Shekau’s calls the UN headquarters a “forum of all the global evil,” while also offering praise for Osama bin Laden.
The video focusing on the UN bombing, which killed at least 23 people and was among the deadliest targeting the world body, is more than an hour and 15 minutes long.
A soft-spoken, 27-year-old smiling man said to be the UN bomber pleads with his family to understand his actions, and a vague warning is sent out to “Obama and other infidels.”
During much of his time on the video, he holds an AK-47 while two others lean against the wall.
Two gas canisters are on the floor at his feet.
He is rail-thin and wears a striped, polo-style shirt, a turban and what looks to be a suicide vest.
In a phone interview with AFP, a man who claimed to be a spokesman for the sect identified the alleged bomber as Mohammed Abul Barra, a married auto repair worker with a son from the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the group has carried out most of its attacks.
His name was picked in a draw because a number of others also wanted to carry out the mission, according to the spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Qaqa.
Boko Haram’s supposed foreign links as well as the origin of its backing is controversial in Nigeria – as is whether it was truly behind the UN attack.
Kyari Mohammed, a Nigerian professor who has been closely studying the sect, said some members may have received training from other extremist groups, but he doubted more substantial cooperation had occurred.
“I personally don’t believe there is any serious link,” he said.
Nigeria’s secret police claimed in the days after the UN attack that an Al-Qaeda-linked suspect who recently returned from Somalia named Mamman Nur masterminded the blast. He was declared wanted.
Nur was believed to be third-in-command of Boko Haram when it launched the 2009 uprising.
In one of the videos, reference is also made to an attempted attack on police headquarters in Maiduguri on August 15 and an image is shown of the man said to be the bomber, who was killed by authorities before the explosives detonated.
Photos of the man killed by police taken by journalists bear a resemblance to the person in the video.
The second video shows the “martyr” for an attack at police headquarters in Abuja in June, when at least two people were killed.
The videos refer to the group by a name roughly translated as “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,” as a previous video has done.
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