Nigeria: An International Effort Against Boko Haram

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March 19, 2014: The government reports that over 2,000 have died as a result of Boko Haram activity during the last six months. Most of the dead were civilians, largely the result of Boko Haram raiding rural towns and villages in search of supplies and two terrorize civilians. There have been over 40 of these raids so far this year and casualties from these attacks account for most of the thousand plus people killed so far this year. These raids have been the cause of some 60 percent of the half million refugees in the last year. Rural people in the northeast, especially Christians, are terrified of the Boko Haram. The government is trying to combine aggressive operations against Boko Haram with a deliberately kinder and gentler approach to the local civilians. This is difficult because it has long been customary for the police, and especially the army, to deal harshly with civilians in a crises and to regard all civilians as potentially hostile. This has been a very unpopular attitude and the government is under growing pressure to get the security forces to be less brutal with civilians. The government has issued orders to do just that and most, but not all, soldiers and police are at least trying.  

The government is organizing a new Border Patrol Corps to monitor the land borders, especially in the northeast. Over the next year the government will also establish 500 new border control posts in an effort to reduce the number of border crossings (currently about 1,400) that are not monitored and allow anyone to illegally enter the country. These illegal crossings have long been tolerated because many tribes are astride the border and the people are used to crossing back and forth without passports. The new border posts will generally allow locals to move back and forth freely but will be on the alert for smugglers, terrorists and anyone the police are looking for. Most of these new posts will first be established in border areas where Boko Haram is active. The way these things work in Nigeria the new border guards would be exposed to bribes from smugglers or even terrorists and many would take the money and do nothing. But some would refuse bribes from Islamic terrorists and at least report having spotted them.

The success of recent joint operations around Lake Chad has led the nations bordering Lake Chad (Chad, Cameroon, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and the Central African Republic/CAR) to form a permanent task force to patrol the lake region and coordinate operations against smugglers, Islamic terrorists and bandits. The initial emphasis will be on containing the Islamic terrorists, mainly Boko Haram, in the area. The new task force will have its headquarters in the Nigerian town of Baga, which is on the lake. Baga is large enough to accommodate a new military base. The goal is to have the new task force up and running before the end of the year. Increased coordination will start immediately.

In the last two weeks the army has carried out major operations in the northeast which has resulted in over 500 Boko Haram killed or captured. Interrogation of prisoners revealed that Boko Haram leaders had told many of their men to disperse back into the population and abandon camps that had not yet been attacked until arrangements could be made to establish new camps. The increased army and police activity in the northeast during the last few months has made life hard for the several thousand Boko Haram still using camps inside Nigeria. Food and other supplies became a problem because the terrorists had to launch major operations to obtain supplies, usually in the form of raiding a town or village. Doing this risked a battle with troops and a pursuit chasing them back to their camp, which could then be attacked on the ground or bombed by the air force. This is causing more of the camps to be moved across the border, especially into Cameroon which has the weakest military presences on their side of the border. But those camps still require food, fuel and other supplies and to remain in Cameroon the terrorists have to pay for what they need. If they raid and loot and police and soldiers will come after them. Boko Haram is in need of more cash so the police are preparing for more bank robberies and other high-value robberies. It is believed that Boko Haram has approached al Qaeda for help in obtaining the cash they need to continue a high level of operations.

The government is under growing pressure to do more for the nearly half a million people who have fled their homes in the past year because of Boko Haram activities. Most of these refugees are still in Nigeria, living with family or friends or however they can. About 12 percent of the refugees have fled across the border, mostly into Cameroon. Organizing government help for the refugees is risky because the effort is likely to be crippled by corrupt officials.

March 18, 2014: In response to the Boko Haram threat the northeastern state of Borno is temporarily closing 85 high schools with a total attendance of over 120,000 students. The closings are unpopular because the Moslem northeast has the lowest education levels in the country. Only about five percent of children in Borno state get to attend high school.

March 17, 2014: In the southeast (Benue state) Fulani tribesmen attacked two Tiv villages and were repulsed leaving at least 25 dead. This followed several days of similar attack in nearby Kaduna state that left over 200 dead. A few days before that Fulani tribesmen also killed over a hundred people in northern Katsina state, where most of the victims were Moslems (Hausa). The Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central and southeastern Nigeria for years and raiding Moslem farmers in the north. The violence has gotten worse now and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013. Boko Haram has recently claimed involvement, but that appears to be marginal. The Fulani have long claimed that the government was sending Christian police to persecute them because of their religion (not because they were constantly attacking Christian farmers). The settled (farming) tribes have been there a long time and in the last few decades more Fulani have come south looking for pasturage and water for their herds and have increasingly used force to get what they want.

March 15, 2014: In the Niger Delta down south the navy conducted a series of raids over eight hours and destroyed more than 260 improvised (and illegal) refineries that turned stolen oil into a crude form of kerosene. Several hundred liters of refined product was found at each refinery and that was destroyed as well. Five people were arrested and some boats and other equipment seized. These improvised refineries cost less than $5,000 to set up, employ 15-20 people and generate over $7,000 a month in profit. So the operators don’t mind if a lot of them are found by the security forces and destroyed. The navy has been collecting information on the location of refineries for some time and conducted the raids in a short period of time to prevent operators from moving their refineries.

March 14, 2014:  In the north (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked a military camp outside the state capital (Maiduguri) apparently in an attempt to free several hundred captured Boko Haram men being held there. The attack was repulsed and after two hours the Boko Haram gunmen withdrew, taking their dead and wounded with them. Four soldiers were wounded and even more Boko Haram were killed or wounded because the Islamic terrorists were attacking. The air force came in after about an hour and got a sense of how the Boko Haram force was deployed and attacked the terrorists from the air. After this attack the army imposed a 24 hour curfew on Maiduguri to make it easier to hunt down fleeing Boko Haram men.

In the north (Lake Chad) troops found a Boko Haram weapons storage site with dozens of weapons and large quantities of ammunition.

March 12, 2014: In the northeast (around the Sambisa forces) the local cell phone service was temporarily shut down to cripple communications for the many Boko Haram men fleeing the army raids and patrols.

March 11, 2014: In the northeast (around Lake Chad) troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad coordinated raids to round up over a hundred Boko Haram members, many of them wounded. These men had survived the recent raids on many Boko Haram camps and fled the country seeking medical aid and relief from the ongoing army patrols.  

March 9, 2014: The army concluded several days of raids in the Sambisa forest in the northeast (where the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states meet). Over Boko Haram men were killed and over fifty arrested. This involved the destruction of several Boko Haram camps and the army continues patrolling to catch those Islamic terrorists that had fled the approach of the troops.

 

 

 

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