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When Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan branded Boko Haram “al Qaeda in West Africa”, it was sure to turn up the alarm among Western policy-makers, as if its kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls was not enough. Yet while Jonathan’s remarks, made at a meeting of regional leaders in Paris this month, hold some truth, analysts say Boko Haram is overall not an al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa – nor is it likely to become one. Boko Haram’s own aims remain thoroughly local and its behavior, especially killing Muslim civilians and kidnapping girls, runs against the al Qaeda leadership’s current thinking.

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