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Report Raises Alarm over Jihadist Movement into Northwestern Nigeria

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A new report from the Clingendael Institute has unveiled alarming security threats in Nigeria, detailing the infiltration of jihadi fighters believed linked to al-Qaeda from Africa’s Sahel region into northwestern Nigeria.

The militants have reportedly established a presence within Kainji Lake National Park, prompting its closure for over a year due to escalating security risks.

John Yerima, a resident near Kainji Lake National Park in New Bussa town, described the deteriorating security situation: “Before, it was like a tourism center (but) now, people find it difficult to pass through there. You cannot enter that road (leading to the park) now. It is seriously dangerous.”

Kars de Bruijne, co-author of the report and senior research fellow at Clingendael, expressed grave concern: “The security situation at the 5,300-square-kilometer park in Niger state and along the nearby border with Benin is getting out of hand and is a much more explosive situation than we had anticipated.”

The report suggests a potential connection between the Islamic State-backed insurgency in northern Nigeria and al-Qaeda-linked militants from the Sahel, posing a significant threat to regional stability.

De Bruijne warned that this connection could amplify violence and enable both groups to claim significant territorial gains.

The Sahel region, known for its extremist activities, has witnessed increased instability exacerbated by military coups, leading affected governments to seek support from nations like Russia, straining relations with traditional allies such as France and the United States.

Security analysts have long warned about northwestern Nigeria’s vulnerability, citing remote areas with valuable resources and high poverty levels as fertile ground for jihadist expansion.

The report highlighted the potential for jihadist groups to exploit these conditions and establish logistical bases within the region’s illegal trade networks.

Stella Egbe, a senior conservation manager, voiced concerns over the new threat posed by armed groups to Nigeria’s wildlife: “The security situation has become a top concern, especially regarding the conservation of lion populations in Nigeria.”

While the motives of Sahelian extremists remain unclear, analysts fear their presence could fuel existing armed groups in the park and bolster jihadist influence across the region.

James Barnett, a fellow at Hudson Institute, emphasized the strategic implications: “The Sahelian jihadis potentially can try to use northwestern Nigeria as a place for fundraising, logistics, and influencing local jihadi groups.”

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