US Africa Command offers Nigeria military assistance

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The United States military Africa Command (Africom) is ready to offer assistance to the Nigerian military, according to Africom commander Carter Ham, as the country faces a growing number of internal and external security threats.

Ham was speaking at a conference with journalists in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday. He said he was in the country to find out how the United States could assist the government of Nigeria, especially with regard to security breaches in some areas of the country.
“If requested, the US will offer assistance to the Nigerian Army to boost its equipment, technical capabilities and other areas,” Ham said.
“I have met with the hierarchy of the military, but areas where Nigeria would need the offer were not disclosed.
“The US is specifically interested in the Nigerian military because our two nations shared great communality for security challenges.

Ham said that while he thought Nigeria had made progress in containing security breaches, it required some support to effectively deal with the challenges.

There are numerous internal security threats facing Nigeria, including militants in the Niger Delta region and Al Qaeda linked militants in neighbouring Niger. Off the coast, piracy is a growing problem with a number of ships having being attacked in recent weeks in the Gulf of Guinea.

Hundreds of oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta while in recent months there have been repeated attacks by the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, which translates roughly into “Western education is sinful,” has claimed responsibility for almost daily shootings and attacks with homemade bombs in remote northeast Nigeria in recent months.

The group, which wants sharia (Islamic law) more widely applied across Nigeria, has killed hundreds of people this year.

Meanwhile, on May 12 two people, including a British national, were kidnapped in Nigeria and a video released allegedly showing the hostages.

Al Qaeda’s north African wing, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates in neighbouring Niger and has kidnapped foreign workers and there is speculation that they are behind the May kidnapping.

Countries in Africa’s Sahel-Sahara region have stepped up efforts to counter an increased threat from gunmen linked to al Qaeda, who frequently cooperate with and operate alongside rebels, bandits and traffickers in the largely desert zone.

If the kidnappers were linked to al Qaeda it would be a significant escalation in the security threat in Africa’s most populous nation.