By DAVID OTTO
Impeccable sources have reported a successful coordinated ground and aerial strike by the Nigerian military on Boko Haram terrorists and ISIS affiliated Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The precise intelligence-led airstrike resulted in the killing of more than 150 ISWAP unit specialist fighters along the fringes of the Lake Chad and Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno.
The successful Nigerian Air Force aerial strike in coordination with the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was launched on August 1 and 2, 2020 at ISWAP hideouts at Kusuma, Yarwa Kura and Abbaganaram. These locations were revealed as the terrorists’ most active camps and hideouts in Marte Local Government Area (LGA) Borno State.
It was revealed that the Nigerian military air strike hit a major hideout of ISWAP jihadists at a location given as “Abbaganaram” where more than 150 jihadists were positioned to receive specialist training. These fighters were stationed to train and act as standby forces in preparation for ambush attacks on nearby troops positions.
A ground assessment by sources revealed that a number of ISWAP unit commanders and high value fighters were eliminated, while many more were seriously injured.
This is the third major successful offensive against ISWAP positions this week.
These military airstrikes and previous offensives have forced ISWAP leadership to advise unit commanders to adopt new tactics of spreading their men in very small units and spatial locations to avoid heavy casualties when targeted by the Nigerian and regional airstrikes and artillery shelling. The military-styled rotation tactics has also been introduced amongst other Boko Haram/ISWAP jihadists’ bigger units due to recent suspicion of collusion and frequent desertion amongst their foot soldiers occasioned by fear, hunger and frustration.
Sources say the number of jihadists killed during these coordinated aerial strikes may likely double, as the terrorists may desperately hide the true casualties figures. Moreover, the damage assessment is still ongoing in certain hard to reach locations, where high casualties rates may have been recorded – particularly at such camps located in Kusuma and Yarwa Kura.
A similar coordinated successful airstrike was carried out by the Nigerian Air Task Force (Nigeria), Nigerienne Air Force, as well as Artillery Fire Units of Sectors 3 (Nigeria) and Sector 4 (Niger) in Chukun Ngudu, Tumbumma, Kwatan Bachama, resulting in high casualties from ISWAP units.
The damaging airstrike and artillery bombardment on Boko Haram terrorists/ISWAP camps have pushed the surviving and wounded out of these locations. Although jihadists are known to return to places that have been the subject of military clearance. The remaining insurgents have been spotted escaping towards the Southern flanks of the Lake Chad around Bakkassi, Tudun Woulgo, Kirta and Sabon Tombo – all known locations with jihadist presence.
These areas will be used to treat wounded jihadist and to re-strategies. Attacks in search for medical supply items will likely increase along these locations and beyond. Therefore, severe vigilance is required by all stakeholders, including local and international humanitarian organisations distributing lives saving medical and food items.
It will be recalled that Sabon Tombo and Tudun Woulgo are the same locations where Boko Haram/ISWAP jihadists recently executed about 20 people including powerful commanders from the Amir Baba Kaka’s faction and other captives plus 2 Nigerian soldiers on Eid day.
The ISWAP jihadists’ leadership chaos continues to destabilise the terrorists’ structure in the Lake Chad region. It is forcing them to re-organise towards survival style attacks. This has been made worse by a jihadists shift from ideological goals to criminal and power struggles.
The fate and leadership structure of Boko Haram terrorists groupies of Abubakar Shekau’s faction and ISWAP have been made worse by recent sustained land and aerial coordinated offensives by the Nigerian Army; the Nigerian Air-Force; the Chadian Army, the Nigerienne forces and the regional Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) troops.
These offensives have impacted on jihadists operational command and control in the challenging terrain of the Mandara mountains, the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin and the Sambisa forest.
In the most recent past, thousands of Boko Haram terrorists and ISWAP fighters along with their commanders have been eliminated, forcing a complete overhaul of ISWAP leadership. Several loosely affiliated and independent groups operating as bandits have emerged, thus reinforcing the belief that there is so much criminality in the area. Some of the terrorists by name and criminals by act, have spilled over to the north west geo-political zone of Nigeria to align and terrorise the vulnerable population.
The recent summary executions of some of top jihadist leaders and other captives is part of an ongoing cleansing among the terrorists but also a last-ditch survival tactics. It is also aimed at consolidation exercise by the most recent ISWAP leadership of Ba Abubakar Lawan and the return of Abu Musab Albarnawi to ISWAP high command.
In view of these progressive developments in the theatre of war, all local and regional stakeholders must continue to engage each other towards a joined goal of the war against terror. These stakeholders need to collectively collaborate further to achieve complete and sustainable defeat of terrorists and criminal elements hibernating in some parts of the north eastern and north western of Nigeria. All hands should be on deck among the armed and security forces of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Citizens and government must support the military and security forces to succeed. It is a collective and People’s War! It will take time but everyone must be on board with clean hands.
•David Otto is the Director for Stepped In – Step Out UK Ltd and a Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert. He is a Certified Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a programme trainer with the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB). Twitter @ottotgs Email: [email protected]