The Boko Haram militants’ group has fractured internally, with a big group splitting away from shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau over his failure to adhere to guidance from the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State, a senior United States general has said.
Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the nominee to lead the U.S military’s Africa Command, suggested the internal division was illustrative of limits of Islamic State’s influence over Boko Haram so far, despite the West African group’s pledge of allegiance to it last year.
“Several months ago, about half of Boko Haram members broke off to a separate group because they were not happy with the amount of buy-in, if you will, from Boko Haram into the ISIL brand,” Reuters quoted Waldhauser as saying at his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Shekau, he said, had not fallen into line with ISIL’s instructions, including by ignoring calls for Boko Haram to stop using children as suicide bombers.
“He’s been told by ISIL to stop doing that. But he has not done so. And that’s one of the reasons why this splinter group has broken off,” he said, adding ISIL was trying to “reconcile those two groups.”
Reuters reported on June 9 that U.S officials had seen no evidence that Boko Haram has so far received significant operational support or financing from ISIL.
The assessment suggested Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge had so far mostly been a branding exercise.
Waldhauser acknowledged differing opinions about how much influence ISIL has actually had so far over Boko Haram, which won global infamy for its 2014 kidnapping of 276 school girls in Borno State.
“They certainly have not given them a lot of financial assistance. So the point being is that perhaps improvement in tradecraft, in training and the like,” he said.