Amid fresh threats of terrorist attacks on Nigerian hotels and U.S. State Department safety warnings, Nigerian military officials say that their forces have received counterterrorism training by the U.S. military.
According to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Nigerian military officials confirmed the U.S. training, saying that, "The army is in the process of setting up a division that is effectively looking at warfare tactics. Various battalions were in the United States earlier this year for training to that end.”
The announcement comes as Nigeria’s northern region is still reeling from a series of insurgent attacks at the hand of militant group Boko Haram. Following the attacks, Nigerian officials scrambled to restore calm and faith in their ability to handle what seems to be developing into a formidable terrorism problem.
Sunday, a series of attacks by the group left 100 dead. In response, the U.S. State Department issued new travel warnings for the country and urged all Americans in Nigeria to stay clear of certain targets such as hotels in the capital, Abuja. The alert angered Nigerian officials, with one calling the warning "insulting to us as a nation."
Although U.S. officials confirmed the training agreement, they could not say whether Boko Haram was the primary focus of the training. The Guardian reports that the training included assistance in the formation of specialist units, such as bomb disposal.
The U.S. embassy in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, told the paper, "We have had a mil-mil relationship with the Nigerians for decades, principally supporting their peacekeeping efforts in Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur) and around the globe. In recent years, and at their request, we have also worked with them on their nascent counter-force. We do not know if any of these elements have been deployed in the north."
The African continent has seen an increase in U.S. military presence over the last few years, with the most recent deployments taking place in Libya, and now, the east African nations of Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
(Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)