ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Nigerian authorities Thursday to boost their intelligence capabilities to better combat growing extremist violence.
Clinton is proposing that Nigeria create an "intelligence fusion cell" that would combine information from the military, spy services, police and other federal, state and local agencies. The cell would also coordinate counter-terrorism activities and serve as a contact for foreign intelligence services, said State Department officials.
The officials said the US was ready to assist the cell with organizational expertise, training and equipment, including computers, and would offer the aid to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his new national security adviser, Mohammed Dasuki, on whom the U.S. has high hopes for expanded intelligence cooperation.
The officials were speaking on condition of anonymity because Clinton had not begun her meetings with Nigerian officials yet.
The US has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by militant groups in west Africa such as the Islamist Boko Haram in Nigeria and cells of al-Qaida linked fighters in northern Mali.
The security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated to the point where the movement of U.S. embassy workers is often restricted. Clinton will spend only about five hours on the ground and will not spend the night in Abuja, where the hotel traditionally used by visiting U.S. dignitaries has been the target of terrorist threats.
After her meeting with Jonathan and Dasuki, Clinton expressed the U.S. commitment to Nigeria.
"We intend to remain supportive of your reform effort. We are very supportive of the anti-corruption efforts. We really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless," Clinton said.
A U.S. official said later that the Nigerians were very interested in creating the intelligence fusion cell. The U.S. agreed to send a team to Nigeria soon to help them set up the counterterrorist operation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to publicly discuss a public meeting.
Boko Haram seeks the strict implementation of Shariah, or Islamist law, across Nigeria. The terrorist group is held responsible for more than 650 deaths this year alone according to an Associated Press count
The group's gain in strength and lethality has led some US lawmakers to demand that Boko Haram be designated a "foreign terrorist organization" and subjected to enhanced sanctions. The Obama administration has said it is reviewing the case but notes that numerous individual members are already on US financial blacklists. Continued...