"All of this seems well beyond the capabilities of a small cult known mainly for its views on secular education. Boko Haram in Hausa, the main language of the north, means “Western learning is forbidden”. The frequency and sophistication of the violence has led many, especially in America, to suggest that the group is getting support from international terrorist networks. Algeria’s branch of al-Qaeda and, more improbably, Somalia’s Shabab have been mentioned. Nigeria’s government, keen to win lucrative grants as a front-line ally in the West’s “global war on terror”, has encouraged such explanations. Religious and political leaders in the mainly Muslim north, however, see things differently. To them, the internationally connected, ferociously active Islamist fringe group described by officials is largely an imaginary bogeyman. They say there are some genuine religious fanatics in the north but suggest Boko Haram has been co-opted into a murky mix of criminal opportunists and disgruntled political operators. “It’s something like a Bermuda triangle.” says Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State, where the group originates. “Boko Haram has become a franchise that anyone can buy into.” Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, seems in two minds. He has claimed that Boko Haram and its sympathisers have infiltrated all branches of the government, including the army and police. “Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you, and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house,” he told a church congregation in Abuja.