President Obama on Monday reaffirmed his commitment to destroying the terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State, which have ramped up attacks in Nigeria and the Middle East, respectively, in recent days.
At the outset of a meeting with new Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Obama pledged that the U.S. will aide the African country in its fight against Boko Haram. The organization, which has aligned itself with the Islamic State, has wreaked havoc across Nigeria over the past five years.
Just this month, Boko Haram reportedly gunned down nearly 100 people praying inside Nigerian mosques and also has unleashed car bomb attacks across the country. The group also is responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls last year, and Mr. Buhari has made stopping Boko Haram a top priority.
“President Buhari comes into office with a reputation of integrity and a very clear agenda and that is to make sure that he is bringing safety and security and peace to this country. He is very concerned about the spread of Boko Haram and the violence that has taken place there and the atrocities that have taken place there and he has a very clear agenda of defeating Boko Haram and extremists of all sorts inside his country,” Mr. Obama said. “And he has a very clear agenda with respect to rooting out the corruption that has too often held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country. On both these issues, we’re looking forward to hearing more about his plans and how the United States can partner with Nigeria.”
Mr. Obama also called Nigeria “one of the most important countries in the world” and praised its recent peaceful transition of power. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan left office in May.
The meeting with Mr. Buhari comes as the White House’s foreign policy — particularly its efforts to combat terrorist organizations abroad — has been called into question. The administration continues to claim its fight against the Islamic State, which centers on airstrikes and the training of Iraqi security forces, has blunted the group’s progress.
But Monday brought yet another reminder that the Islamic State is capable of carrying out attacks beyond the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State is believed to be behind a suicide bombing in the Turkish city of Suruc that killed 31 and wounded more than 100 others.
“We are face to face with a terrorism incident,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. “We have the willpower to find and certainly punish those who are responsible.”
The White House acknowledged that the Islamic State’s reach seems to be expanding, but it defended its policy and said getting Middle Eastern nations to contribute more to the fight is critical.
“We have started to see some extremist activity in other countries that does seem to be related to [the Islamic State]. We continue to be concerned about that, and that’s why … it’s been so critically important for us to mobilize other countries in the region in support of our coalition’s efforts,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters just hours after the Suruc attack.
The Islamic State also is bent on expanding its reach into the U.S. Lawmakers fear more shootings such as the one at a military base in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week could be on the horizon as terrorist groups actively recruit Americans via social media.
Federal officials are investigating whether the gunman in last week’s shooting, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, has direct ties to al Qaeda, the Islamic State or other terrorist groups.
Key lawmakers already seem convinced Abdulazeez was radicalized via social media or by some other means.
“The new sort of threat that’s out there over the Internet that’s very hard to stop. We have 200,000 ISIS tweets per day that hit the United States,” Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC News Sunday. “The chatter is so loud and the volume so high that it’s a problem that’s very hard to stop and disrupt in this country. It’s something we’ve been warning about over the last year. And unfortunately we saw it take place in Chattanooga.”
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