from Africa in Transition

Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Ansaru Getting Back Together?

November 20, 2013

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Sub-Saharan Africa


Terrorism and Counterterrorism



Last week, a French Catholic priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was kidnapped in northern Cameroon. According to the local Roman Catholic bishop, some fifteen gunmen invaded the priest’s compound looking for money.

A nun working in the community said the kidnappers spoke English, not French, the predominant European language in that part of Cameroon. A Cameroonian official says that Fr. Vandenbeusch has been spirited away to Nigeria. An anonymous sources, quoted by France-24, claims that the operation was joint between Boko Haram and Ansaru.

Ansaru has previously carried out the kidnapping of Europeans for ransom. The priest was kidnapped in the same area of Cameroon as a French family in February. That family was released after the rumored payment of a U.S. $3 million ransom, according to the BBC, citing a confidential Nigerian government report. However, it is not clear who paid the ransom; the French government denies that it pays ransoms.

Ansaru and Boko Haram have not cooperated in operations since they split in January 2012. Ostensibly, Ansaru split because it objected to the large number of Muslims among Boko Haram’s victims. It is plausible, however, that with increased Nigerian government pressure on Boko Haram, it is willing to cooperate with Ansaru on highly lucrative kidnapping activities and perhaps on other operations. If so, then the Boko Haram insurgency in the north may be entering a new phase.