A new threat from Boko Haram

Boko Haram is alleged to have aquired an air asset by means of procuring a helicopter from Libya. It may be a matter of time before we witness more sophisticated terrorism activities in Nigeria

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Nigeria's military may now face a new dimension
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Melissa S. Gresham
On 1 August 2012 13:25

Recent reports show the Nigerian terrorist organization, Boko Haram, has acquired a helicopter. An arrested member of the Islamic terror group disclosed the helicopter was brought from Libya after Gaddafi was killed and will be used in future operations.

If Boko Haram is able to maintain an operational air asset, a new tactic will be presented to guerilla type warfare. In addition to the usual kidnappings, suicide bombings, and assassinations often used by terrorist organizations, Boko Haram will have the many advantages a helicopter can bring to their operations.

To my knowledge the last terrorist organization to have a helicopter was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka. They established an Air Tiger wing within their hierarchy and conducted successful attacks on government targets.

The obvious advantage to an air asset is the direct fire power on targets that cannot be reached by a ground unit, as shown by the LTTE. The advantageous attack position from a helicopter will allow them to find their target with ease, attack, and quickly escape.

The LTTE used their air asset to drop bombs, fire RPG’s, and they even launched a Kamikaze style attack. If Boko Haram has the ability to utilize a helicopter in future operations they can bring this type of destruction to Nigeria.

Another area of concern is the support role a helicopter can bring to an organization. Delivering supplies, transporting personnel, reconnaissance, intelligence collection, and security are a few missions Boko Haram will be able to conduct with aerial support.

Similar to the attack ideology, reconnaissance and security will enable them to find suitable fighting positions, escort their elements to and from the location, ensure their safety during the operation, and egress them out to sustain their force in future attacks; making suicide missions no longer necessary, thus growing their force.

Finally, the economic development from this addition is the oil-rich status of Nigeria. An aviation company brings a lot of additional costs to an organization. In order to sustain an operational helicopter, equipment, parts, and trained mechanics must be readily available in addition to providing extra security to protect this valuable asset.

Nigeria produces approximately 2.2 million barrels of oil per day and is ranked 12th by The Huffington Post in the top 20 oil producing countries. Boko Haram will need to take advantage of the oil industry to help sustain and grow their organization.

The combination of abundant oil resources to generate revenue with a strong terrorist organization that has aerial capabilities is a situation that should continue to be monitored. If, in fact, suggestions that Boko Haram does have a helicopter prove to be true, it may simple be a matter of time before we witness more sophisticated terrorism activities and attacks in Nigeria.

Melissa S. Gresham is an Adjunct Instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a former helicopter pilot with the U.S. Army. She is completing her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration with a specialization in Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace. Follow her on twitter @melissa_gresham

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