With recent reports of staggering losses inflicted upon the Boko Haram insurgency at the hands of the Nigerian Joint Task Force begs the questions. Is Boko Haram done? Is this the first target for FOB Niger? And more over, is it still leaderless?
Since May 15th 2013 Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon issued a state of emergency in 3 northern states of Adamwa, Yobe, and Borno. These northern states are mainly Muslim-populated, and well-known for harboring the radical Jihadist group Boko Haram. Under its leader, Abubakar Shekau, the group has been spreading terror and murder all along the northern and into the mainly Christian portions of the southern states of Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s tactics of attacking local police, along with Christian schools and churches, changed as of late into assaults on larger military targets within the north and outposts at the borders of the south. So out of control was the north, that even President Jonathon is quoted to have said “Boko Haram has taken over parts of the northeast and declared war against the Nigerian government.”
Two days after the declaration of emergency, Nigeria began sending troops north to the three contested states to begin a major offensive to dig out Boko Haram and finish them. The Nigerian Army focused mainly in the Sambisa forest region, where rumors of Islamist camps could be found. Little information is coming out, but for the better part of May they were making headway. Then in June reports from sources within the Nigerian government began releasing statements that Special Forces JTF soldiers had cornered and gravely wounded Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. Now, the timeline is murky, and you know how these gents seem to almost never “take the ghost,” as they say in Nigeria, so I’ll take it slow.
On June 30th, a Special Forces/JTF raid occurred in the Sambisa Forest, and in the ensuing gun battle, Abubakar sustained several gunshot wounds. Elements of Boko Haram broke contact with the assault, and evacuated Abubakar from the forest and snuck him into Mali. There it’s supposed that he and his small entourage were awaiting medical aid which failed to arrive, so Abubakar and a trusted aide trekked over to Amitchide, Camaroon where Abubakar Shekau succumbed to his injuries.
To add insult to injury, it was said that, had they gotten Abubakar to a hospital, he could have survived. The senior leadership was crushed. They decided to try and keep Abubakar’s suspected death a secret, and reportedly killed the aide for letting the word of his death escape Amitchide. They buried Abubakar in a shallow grave, then later attempted to make a YouTube video denouncing the purported death. His second-in-command, Momodu Bama, was the obvious choice and for a while was leading Boko Haram’s counter-offensive into Yobe and Adamawa states, attacking troops and civilians at will.
That is, until August 4th, when yet another SOF/JTF raid occurred within the Bama corridor in Borno, where Momodu was killed along with Boko Haram’s spiritual counsel, Alhaji Abatcha Flatari, Momodu Bama’s father.
Some prominent figures within the Maghreb terror network discount the “supposed” death of the senior leadership of Boko Haram, asking, “Why hasn’t the Shura Council of the Boko Haram announcing that their leader has translated as martyr. They will also announce a new leader who will unveil his face.”
One can only assume, with this new vigor and aggression, the Nigerian Army and the JTF are showing with recent attacks on Boko Haram bases yielding 150+ KIA, that the Council is too busy displacing and running to even deconflict and assess damages done thus far. And with a new unified terror organization headed by Moktahtar Belmokhtar in the Mali/Algerian region, you can only assume that with Boko Haram leaderless, the logical thing to do would be quickly ally oneself with that new fledgling and well funded al-Qaeda backed terror group in the Maghreb.
All this points back to the technical and tactical strides the Nigerian Army and its JTF has shown. They have some of the most ruthless insurgents running to the Sahara, with air strikes planned, along with close air attack helicopters in support of ground operations. The Nigerians are massing on base camps and caches all along the 3 northern states. It’s almost like the Nigerian command is getting valuable intelligence on the whereabouts of Boko Haram’s backyards and striking them without mercy.
Where is this new vigor for action coming from, and who is supplying the intelligence? With reports coming out of Naimey, Niger of daily, if not twice daily, flights of MQ-9 Reapers flying out of a secluded military airfield along the outskirts of the international airport, one can only assume that, in order to validate your program, you start with a potential threat matrix with a high probability of success. The training has been put into place, the helicopters and fighter aircraft upgraded, and some shiny, well dull-grey new drones in the air means this.
I think I hear the bells ringing.
(Featured Image Courtesy: The Daily Maverick)