ISIS IN AFRICA – THE MOST BITTER SPLIT – WILL REGIONAL STATES STRIKE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS. Part 2.
By David Otto
...in continuation of the previous edition
Pressure from the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
The MNJTF ‘Operation YANCIN TAFKI’ a coalition of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, have intensified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as ground and aerial offensives on key Boko Haram ISWAP safe havens along the many Tunbum Islands of the Lake Chad Basin. ‘Operation YANCIN TAFKI’ has been supplemented along the porous borders by Nigeria’s ‘Operation LAFIYA DOLE’ and Chad’s ‘Operation Boma Wrath’.
From January 2020, JAS and ISWAP factions have lost over 50 experienced commanders from the direct action of the Nigeria Air Task Force; Nigerien and Chad Air Force and MNJTF artillery assault units- Sectors 2, 3 and 4. The most notable among those killed JAS commanders, was Mallam Bakura, who was killed by an air/artillery interdiction in one of the remote Lake Chad Islands in the borders of Niger and Chad. About 25 ISWAP commanders have also been killed and many more seriously wounded after stepping on landmines planted as booby traps to target MNJTF member states.
The Nigeria Army, Air Force and Navy is the biggest contributor of the MNJTF and has experienced the greatest impact of Boko Haram ISWAP activities within Southern Bornu, Northern Bornu and the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin. The gains of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ under the field command of the Chief of Army Staff – Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai should continue to mount pressure on ISWAP and Boko Haram jihadist recently pushed back by the MNJTF and Chadian Security and Armed Forces.
Boko Haram ISWAP greatest nightmare was sealed when Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai appointed a certain Maj Gen. Bulama Biu, as the Commander Sector 3 & Sector 2 MNJTF. Biu surrounds himself with a formidable flawless team with deep understanding of the complexities of the asymmetric war tactics of the Boko Haram ISWAP terrorist.
Armed with direct operational command and control from the COAS, Biu’s own no nonsense and fearless offensive approach has neutralised several influential Boko Haram commanders from all factions including the new Naval jihadist commander of ISWAP - Malam Abubakar Dangurmai; others, Amir Modu Morocco; Mohammed Shuwa – ISWAP Chief Judge; Amir Malik; Malam Mohammad; Abu Maryam; Abu Zainab; Mahammat Kala; Abu Ibrahim and the new appointed chief Imam Mohammed Goni Umara. General Biu is known to have reinvigorated his troops to adapt to the new battle craft tactics of the Super camp to ambush Boko Haram ISWAP jihadist recovering 29 abandoned gun trucks in Gubio, Guzamala, Gajiganna,Monguno,Gajiram.
Wounded and displaced jihadist are in search of shelter, fuel, food and other essential supplies through remote areas along Kannama and Gaidam. Some of these items are moved from Kano state by land concealed in randomly selected goods vehicles towards Hadejah to jihadist locations at Dogon Chukun, Arege, Metele. While the COAS engages in the frontline ‘Lafiya Dole’ the Nigeria security and Armed Forces should deploy ISR and launch further ground and aerial offensives on reported terrorist activities and known hideouts.
The axis of Dawashe, Kwata Dabam Masara villages in Kukawa LGA, Boluwa village, Monguno LGA, Kelebareye near Baderi village, Dabenowa, Kattikime around Kirenowa town in Marte LGA should be fortified to block jihadist movement and prevent their operational capacities.
From a soft approach intervention, some Boko Haram ISWAP jihadist survivors have been spotted in Marte Local Government Area of Bornu State along the Water-Shores. Fishermen are targeted to join jihadist camps and recruit more vulnerable youths for jihad missions. The Nigeria local authorities in this areas must urgently accelerate youth awareness initiatives on resilience against preying jihadist tactics of recruiting young people by convincing them with juicy job offers and huge cash payments with no requirement for formal school certificates. External and internal funding mechanism should be regularly monitored to cut out funders from pumping more cash into jihadist activities. These are urgent measures
Chad –The Risk of a Balloon Effect
The recent Chad led “Operation Boma Wrath” neutralised many Boko Haram ISWAP armed jihadist and chased others from Baga-Sola Lac Islands. Terrorist camps at Lelewa, Gadera, Malum Musari, Korolgol, kwatan motor and Tumbun Boka villages close to the Niger Republic borders were all destroyed. The offensives forced jihadist to relocate to hard to access islands such as Toboroun, Fedonde, kan'ngedeya, Ngelewa and other remote villages around Niger – Nigeria borders.
READ ALSO: ISIS IN AFRICA – THE MOST BITTER SPLIT – WILL REGIONAL STATES STRIKE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS. Part 1
There are over 2000 small hidden islands beyond the Lac Province within Chadian territory, many armed Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists have disappeared into these islands. Recent movements indicate that some jihadists have returned to a few hidden Islands in Baga-Sola - Chad.
The Chadian security and Armed Forces need to expand and maintain a stronger unit in the Islands of the Lac Province while actively coordinating with Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon military leadership. To consolidate recent military gains, the Chadian Security and Armed Forces need to urgently engage in a more regionally driven MNJTF ‘plan – launch – clear and hold’ offensive. Such can only be effective if all member states genuinely commit human and material resources to eliminate jihadists and organised crime activities in their backyard.
The Role of Niger Republic
Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists continue to use Niger Republic as the weakest link in the Lake Chad Basin MNJTF even though a US drone base is located close to the capital Agadez. In December 2019, hundreds of armed men linked to Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists killed about 71 Nigerien forces near Tongo Tongo, where 4 US soldiers were ambushed and killed in 2017 by armed men with close links to Islamic State of the Greater Sahel (ISGH).
Relative deprivation, insecurity and a comparatively weaker political economy provides armed groups linked to Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists a source of voluntary and forced recruitment from stranded, unemployed and under-educated youths. Ungoverned spaces and several waterways within Nigerien border provide confined routes for criminals and jihadist to smuggle large consignments of arms, food items, fish and other logistics under the security radar. Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists are known to rely on a constant supply of smuggled fish from Niger’s Tumur fish market. If Niger Republic deploys security forces to control and block this illegal economy along its borders, it will severely diminish the ability of criminals and jihadist to operate and survive without vital resources.
Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists have increased their criminal activities along the Maltam water ways of the Lake Chad long stretched porous borders of Cameroon. This area remains the largest arms smuggling route for ISWAP jihadist linked to the "Bulaburdo" Merchants. The Merchants pass through Bulgaram and Bularam to deliver ammunitions, fuel and other requirements to ISWAP groups in "Kasuwan Marya" located three kilometres to Darek for onward delivery to Mardas, Chukka, Doron Liman, Yobe and Ramin Dorina fringes of the Lake Chad.
The axis of Bulgaram and Bulanguwa are used as food and essential item supply routes and strategic location for planned jihadist raids on neighbouring Niger and Nigeria. Cameroon Special Forces need to conduct deep checks at Darak area to stop or deter ISWAP jihadists from mounting roadblocks and raising funds from local fishermen and arms traffickers. Their active presence will support joint MNJTF operations if intelligence obtained and shared is auctioned on time.
Boko Haram/ISWAP jihadists attacks and criminal activities have been successful due to the lack of an effective joint military operations and intelligence sharing on suspicious activities around Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria porous borders regions among the member states of Lake Chad Basin/MNJTF. Misfortune and unresolved jihadists power struggle have left Boko Haram and ISWAP factions extremely vulnerable, disoriented and weakened. These desperate jihadist will try all known tricks including renewed interest for negotiations in exchange for abducted civilians. Such attempts will slow operations and allow for recovery. A genuine combined offensive from all stakeholders, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad could finish them off (at least in the battlefield), before they eventually reconcile, recover, regroup and re-emerge stronger.
To completely obliterate Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadists’ activities along the Lake Chad axis, no one nation can triumph without other. Collateral damages must be accepted, with offensive strikes conducted through air operations especially on areas not accessible to ground troops. There is no ideal time to strike ISIS presence in Africa than now that they are weak and divided.
About the Author
David Otto – Global Risk International Counter Terrorism & Organised Crime Expert and Certified Master (CMAS) Anti Terrorism Specialist with the Anti Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB) – Twitter: @ottotgs