ISIS most active wiyalat in Africa - Boko Haram and ISWAP have placed a blanket ban on western education, music and sports. They claim these activities originate from western civilisation - hence are haram. But a leaked video has exposed the jihadist engaging in entertainment through a competitive sport that is also practiced in the global west.

Sources say this particular wrestling took place at a Boko Haram ISWAP camp in the Lac Islands given as Kurnawa - camp. The video shows how terrorist fighters entertain their immediate community and themselves through competitive wrestling. 

The jihadist groups operating a guerrilla style asymmetric warfare predominantly in the North East of Nigeria and the fringes of Lake Chad Basin States are seen entertaining themselves and their immediate communities by organising wrestling fights supervised by armed jihadist seen in the video brandishing AK47s. 

Besides organising these fist fights (similar to Dambe in traditional Hausa society) for the purpose of entertainment which ISWAP claims is western oriented hence ´Haram’, the ISIS linked jihadist group is known to use this type of activity to create competitiveness amongst its fighters and units under different commanders. Senior unit commanders are often selected from proven record of Strength and agility demonstrated during such competitions. Sources say internal competition amongst jihadist is very high. A dispute involving a potential bride by two or more males could be settled in a wrestling competition between the men in contention. The winner takes the bride.

It is not clear when this video was taken but sources say it is unlikely to be a recent video as Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorist are currently in a leadership re-organisation phase and very cautious of organising any large gatherings. This follows real fear of frequent and successful precision airstrikes conducted by coordinated efforts from the Nigerian military and the MNJTF regional troops.

A senior Boko Haram Leader (as seen in the video middle right ) often graces these occasions and is responsible for presenting prizes to winners and undefeated champions. Many young male jihadists are known to be trained in hand combat by senior militants using these wrestling techniques - most are tested and promoted for battlefield fitness after a brave performance from such competitions.

Who are the Buduma’s:

Wrestling competitions are very common amongst the Buduma tribes in the axis of the Lake Chad. The Buduma (Kanembu/Kanuri for ‘people who can swim) are a mysterious ethnic group who inhabit the Lac shores of Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria. They are predominantly fishers and cattle-herders. In the past, the Buduma carried out violent raids on the cattle herds of their neighbors. They were feared villains with aggressive reputations; thus, they were respected and left alone for many years, protected by their own habitat of water and reeds.

Two main groups of people live on the islands of Lake Chad. One large and one small group. The bigger group lives in the northern parts and the smaller group inhabits the southeastern islands. Both groups share the same language (Yedinami), but are known as Yedina and Kuri, respectively. However, the general term of Buduma can refer to both tribes or solely the Yedina of the north.

The Buduma’s were initially affiliated to the Shekau JAS faction of Boko Haram, but have since been known to be affiliated to ISWAP and other independent groups resulting in power struggles and friction with the other main tribes like the - Kanuris, Damargu and Shuwa Arabs - hibernating around the axis of Chad and Niger. Amir Bakura (Mallama Bakura), a top Boko Haram commander is known to operate with the Buduma tribes and have been linked to several other Buduma commanders including Amir Shettima Kalaka; Amir Abu Abbas and Malam Musa. 

The Buduma’s are known to be excellent users of reed-boats and they operate a large market for Boko Haram ISWAP jihadist in a location referred to as Fepewa and gegime in Niger republic.

Strategically, Boko Haram and ISWAP leadership promotes local wrestling to keep fighters entertained. These activities are used to demonstrate some decree of normalcy, authority and territorial control around the Lac Islands. They refuse to consider wrestling as one of the sports connected to western civilisation even though it is a globally recognised competition. 

In Counter Insurgency, it is all about the battle of winning hearts and minds. The military cannot fight, if the people are not winning the information sharing war.

If you SeeSomethingSaySomething!!


David Otto, CMAS – Counter Terrorism & Organized Crime Consultant and Director of Stepped-In Step Out (SISO) Email:; Twitter: @ottotgs


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