Cover Story Overview
Boko Haram’s Dangerous Expansion into Northwest Nigeria
By Jacob Zenn
During the past year, the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has expanded from its traditional area of operations in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State and is now capable of conducting attacks across a 900-mile breadth of northern Nigeria, including in the strategic state of Sokoto. Due to Sokoto’s geographic location and religious significance, it is the focal point in Boko Haram’s strategy to purge northern Nigeria of its traditional Islamic leadership. Sokoto is also only 300 miles from “Azawad,” the separatist region of northern Mali that is now under the control of al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Eddine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). This makes it a natural entry point for AQIM militants to infiltrate Nigerian territory by way of Niger. This article analyzes Boko Haram’s attacks in Sokoto and its broader offensive in the North-West zone, how the group’s strategy toward the sultan and traditional Muslim rulers has bred dissent within its ranks, and whether AQIM has infiltrated the North-West zone through alliances with breakaway Boko Haram factions.