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NIGERIA: Ansaru Evolves Strategy with Apparent Hostage Executions

Bottom Line: The kidnapping and apparent execution of 7 hostages (European nationals and Middle Eastern nationals) by Ansaru is a significant cause for concern for foreign companies operating in Northern Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. This illustrates the transnational aspect of Ansaru (which is also cooperating with AQIM in Mali) and indicates that the modus operandi is not confined to Western companies, but is specifically targeting Western nationals. Local partnerships or “localized” companies are no defense in this targeting process.

Analysis: We do not yet have confirmation of Ansaru’s claim on 9 March that it executed 7 hostages in Bauchi, Northern Nigeria (British, Italian, Greek, Lebanese and Syrian nationals), though the claim is believed to be credible according to Western officials.

Ansaru is a new terrorist movement that emerged as a rival offshoot to Boko Haram, a largely Nigeria-focused Islamic militant group. Boko Haram has gained much attention for its emboldened activities over the past two years, but has now been overshadowed by Ansaru. Unlike Boko Haram, Ansaru represents a much broader threat to Western companies because it has more of a transnational bent. Its playing field is not limited to Nigeria. In fact, it has been operating together with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) in northern Mali. Its Nigeria operation represents only one faction of Ansaru. In addition, Ansaru is and will continue to specifically target Western personnel, regardless of the nature of the facilities in which they work.

Bauchi, Nigeria

The seven men were kidnapped in February from a construction site belonging to Setraco, a Lebanese construction company. Ansaru said the kidnappings were revenge for “atrocities by European nationals against Islam”. There has been some intelligence that the executions have been taped and that Ansaru is planning to release this soon.

Recommendations: Across North Africa and West Africa, security should be bolstered for Western personnel, as they are specifically being targeted by Ansaru, which has transnational presence and capabilities and will take advantage of the window of opportunity afforded by the French intervention in Mali and the bold attack on the BP-operated Amenas facility in Algeria. There is a momentum here that no government has the power to halt at this time.




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