Thomas Waldhauser, a US military general, says there is currently an internal fracture within the ranks of the Boko Haram sect.
Waldhauser, the nominee to lead US military’s Africa Command, disclosed this on Wednesday during his nomination hearing before the senate armed services committee.
He said the problem in the group resulted from some members splitting from Abubakar Shekau, leader of the sect, over his failure to adhere to guidance from the Iraq and Syria-based Islamic State.
Waldhauser said the internal division was illustrative of limits of Islamic State’s influence over Boko Haram so far, in spite of the West African group’s pledge of allegiance to it last year.
“Several months ago, about half of Boko Haram 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,’’ he said.
He, however, said that Shekau had not fallen into line with Islamic State’s instructions, including 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.
“But, the Islamic State was trying to reconcile those two groups.”
The military chief said there was no evidence that Boko Haram had so far received significant operational support or financing from Islamic State.
He said the assessment suggested that Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge had so far, mostly been a branding exercise.
Waldhauser acknowledged differing opinions about how much influence Islamic State actually had over Boko Haram, which won global infamy for its 2014 kidnapping of 276 Chibok school girls.
“They certainly have not given them a lot of financial assistance,” he said.
“So, the point could be that it is perhaps in improvement in tradecraft, in training and the like.”
Waldauser added that Shekau’s local focus and voiced concern was about whether a splinter group may act more in concert with Islamic State’s trans-regional ambitions.
“What concerns me is the break-off group of Boko Haram, which wants to be more ISIL-like, and consequently buy into the ISIL-brand of attacking western interests,” he said.
Meanwhile, an army officer in Niger said a multinational force had begun operations against Boko Haram along the border with Nigeria.
Abdou Sidikou-Issa, the tactical chief of staff for troops, based in Niger’s southern zone of Diffa, said troops from Chad and Nigeria were involved in the operation.