Clinton urges Nigeria to pool spy data

Posted: August 10, 2012

ABUJA, Nigeria - 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 counterterrorism activities and serve as a contact for foreign intelligence services, said State Department officials.

The officials said the United States 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 United States 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 United States 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-Qaeda-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 anticorruption efforts. We really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless," Clinton said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said later that the Nigerians were very interested in creating the intelligence fusion cell. The United States agreed to send a team to Nigeria soon to help them set up the counterterrorist operation.

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 U.S. lawmakers to demand that Boko Haram be designated a "foreign terrorist organization" and subjected to enhanced sanctions. The Obama administration has said that it is reviewing the case but notes that numerous individual members are already on U.S. financial blacklists.

American officials also worry that Boko Haram's rise might destabilize the broader region, particularly in Mali, where Islamist militants are taking advantage of a post-coup power vacuum to sow unrest in the north.

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