Foreign Policy quotes Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham on Boko Haram’s strategy in terms of funding and coordination with other terrorist groups:
Last June, J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, testified before members of the U.S. Congress about the rising threat of Boko Haram. He pointed to a 2010 Al Jazeera interview with the emir of AQIM, based in North Africa, who at the time promised that AQIM would provide funding to the Nigerian extremists. And, Pham said, there is enough evidence in Boko Haram’s growth in lethality and sophistication to back up the widespread belief that the two groups are linked. But, he said, though the group has “expanded its links with al Qaeda affiliates,” Boko Haram remains less an affiliate and more a “friend of a friend” to AQIM and other terrorist groups, including al-Shabab in Somalia.
After the French invasion of Mali in 2013, trade routes between AQIM and Boko Haram were largely cut off. Today, Pham told FP, it’s likely that Boko Haram has a significant amount of money stashed in its reserves, but financially is operating almost entirely independently.
And while the world was focusing on the more than 200 schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped 11 months ago, Pham said it largely ignored the middle-class hostages the group held for ransoms ranging from $10 to $20,000.
“They’re clever people, and they’ve hit their sweet spot,” Pham said. “If you go for someone really high value, you’re going to run across security, but if you kidnap a doctor or lawyer, you won’t have the same international reaction.”
Because the cost of survival is so low in the regions where Boko Haram operates, the militants can live on “just pennies a day,” Pham said.