Late last week in the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria, two local men were accused of being members of al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The men, Olaniyi Lawal, 31, and Luqman Babatunde, 30, have pleaded not guilty.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have been keeping a close eye on this specific case, as it suggests that al-Qaeda’s most outspoken affiliate is looking to boost its presence in Africa.
"For them to have reached into a country as far from Yemen as Nigeria is highly unusual and it is indicative of its new strategy in Africa," says Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at Kings College London. "Al-Qaeda's leaders have, for some time, been on the lookout for a new hot battlefront where they can implant themselves."
Initially, that battlefield was Somalia, and then Yemen.
"And of course, Nigeria is something that has popped out of nowhere, really," Neumann says, "and they are trying to capitalize on that, trying to turn this into a conflict essentially that is part of the global jihad."
Nigeria has been on the cusp of violent Islamist insurgency for the last several years. Boko Haram, an Islamist group based in Africa, has been attempting to pit the predominantly Muslim population of North Nigeria against the Christian population of the south. Their goal is to create an independent state in northern Nigeria and to turn it into a Muslim caliphate.
The success of the AQAP and the Boko Haram in Nigeria could be a major boost in the globalization of al-Qaeda and their beliefs.
Temple-Raston, Dina (2012, July). Al-Qaida Arm in Yemen Flexes Its Muscles in Nigeria. http://www.npr.org. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from http://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156641658/al-qaida-arm-in-yemen-flexes-its-muscles-in-nigeria