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Sale of Ammunition: Nigerian military allegedly ties hands with Boko Haram

Nigerian military sells arms and ammunition to Boko Haram, inviting Islamic attacks for itself

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Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria (VOA)
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The admission comes three weeks after the Nigerian army said a military tribunal is trying 16 officers and troops accused of offenses related to the fight against Boko Haram, including the theft and sale of ammunition.

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Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, the theater commander in northeastern Nigeria, told a news conference on Thursday, September 1, 2016 that military authorities have confirmed that some soldiers were selling arms and ammunition to Boko Haram. He called it a betrayal of the Nigerian people. He gave no more details.

President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed corruption for the deaths of thousands in the seven-year Islamic uprising that has killed more than 20,000. Children who escaped Boko Haram are dying of starvation in refugee camps in the northeast, where the government is investigating the alleged theft of food aid.

People displaced by Boko Haram wait to be screened at Furore camp in Yola, Nigeria, near the country's border with Cameroon, Dec. 8, 2015. Returnees to Cameroon have have been rejected by their communities (VOA)
People displaced by Boko Haram wait to be screened at Furore camp in Yola, Nigeria, near the country’s border with Cameroon, Dec. 8, 2015. Returnees to Cameroon have have been rejected by their communities (VOA)

A soldier on the frontline of the fight told The Associated Press that his brigade commander is among officers standing trial at the court-martial in this northeastern city, which is being held in secret. He said the army is investigating what happened to 21 anti-aircraft guns assigned this year to his artillery brigade. He said they only received one gun. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared he would lose his job.

In addition, a slew of retired and current military officers are being investigated for diverting hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted to help curb the Islamic uprising. Among them is Alex Badeh, a four-star general whom Buhari fired from his post as chief of defense staff. Witnesses have told a Federal High Court that Badeh stole the equivalent of $24 million budgeted for salaries in 2013 and built a shopping mall in Abuja, the capital.

Esther Yakubu holds a photo of her daughter Dorcas, who was featured in a Boko Haram video released in August (VOA)
Esther Yakubu holds a photo of her daughter Dorcas, who was featured in a Boko Haram video released in August (VOA)

Civil society groups are demanding the investigation of the current chief of army staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, for allegedly buying with cash two properties worth $1.5 million in Dubai. Buratai has said he bought the property on installment with savings.

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Before Buhari took power, soldiers told the AP they were forced into battle with just 30 bullets each and no food rations. They said Boko Haram was better armed and that their officers were stealing parts of their salaries and allowances. Many ran away when the extremists attacked, allowing Boko Haram to take control of a large swath of northeastern Nigeria in 2014.

Under Buhari, a former military dictator, a multinational force has retaken most towns but Boko Haram remains active outside urban areas, carrying out hit-and-run attacks, suicide bombings and abductions of women and girls. (VOA)

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Emergence of Radical Political Groups Raises Concern in Pakistan

Concerns are being voiced about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

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Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
  • Tension in Pakistan increasing due to emergence of Radical Political Groups.
  • Extremist groups are gaining a footing in Country’s politics.
  • According to reports, goverment’s efforts are not enough to stop the emerging radicalism in Pakistan.

Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.

“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”

In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere.

The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.

Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.

“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA.

“As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itself.”

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PPP’s acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.

But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter.

Pakistan’s government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies.

But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics.

“Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.

During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri’s mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.

The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.

“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said.

But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.

“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.

“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can’t be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” VOA