MAIDUGURI, Nigeria -- A shadowy Islamist insurgency that has haunted northern Nigeria -- surviving repeated, bloody efforts to eliminate it -- appears to be branching out and collaborating with Al Qaeda's affiliates, alarming Western officials and analysts who had previously viewed the militants here as a largely isolated, if deadly, menace.
Just two years ago, the Islamist group stalking police officers in this bustling city seemed on the verge of extinction. In a heavy-handed assault, Nigerian soldiers shelled its headquarters and killed its leader, leaving a grisly tableau of charred ruins, hundreds dead and outmatched members of the group, known as Boko Haram, struggling to fight back, sometimes with little more than bows and arrows.
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