ABUJA, May 26 (Reuters) – Video footage found in captured Boko Haram camps by Nigeria’s military and seen by Reuters seems to give some of the clearest indication that foreign fighters hold positions of power within the Nigerian Islamist militant group.
The military says it is analyzing the footage to identify fighters and study the group’s internal dynamics.
The Nigerian government has previously spoken of foreign influence within the ranks of the jihadists but lacked hard evidence to back up its assertion.
“They (foreigners) carry arms and fight alongside the other terrorists,” a senior military source, who declined to be identified, said. “They are also experts and trainers.”
Reuters was not able to establish how many other foreigners were at the filmed event or what percentage of the militants’ fighting force they account for overall.
In 2012, Boko Haram was reported to be receiving training from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), although there has been little to back up claims of foreigners at the core of the group beyond anecdotal evidence from civilians who escaped or soldiers who fought them.
Boko Haram, which loosely translates as “Western education is sinful” in the northern Hausa language, began an insurgency in 2009 to establish a state adhering to strict sharia law.
The footage shows Boko Haram administering sharia judgments in front of a big crowd in a field stained with blood with a man speaking in Sudanese Arabic.
“God ordered all believers to enforce his punishments,” the man, whose face is completely covered by a white turban, says to camera. “God ordered us to cut off the hand of the thief and flog the adulterer and adulteress.”