Nigeria: Fear Of A Forever War


August 20, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) several dozen soldiers in an infantry company stationed outside the state capital of Maiduguri have mutinied and refused to go out on patrol unless they get better weapons and equipment as well as more ammunition. This sort of thing is not a surprise to troops serving in the northeast. Pressure (popular, political and media) to “do something” about Boko Haram has forced the military to establish a lot of checkpoints in areas where Boko Haram is believed to have camps and run a lot of patrols in isolated rural areas. In response Boko Haram has found they can mass enough gunmen to attack these checkpoints and patrols with a fair chance of success. That means lots of highly visible “defeats” for the army and a blow to morale because of the many dead and wounded soldiers. The army doesn’t like to discuss this very real conundrum they are in and are hoping that one of their field commanders will come up with new tactics that will speed up the detection and destruction of the Boko Haram camps and the Islamic terrorists who depend on them. That has not happened yet. The government has been reluctant to ask for foreign help but the troops out in the bush are eager for any edge they can get, no matter where it comes from. Moreover, some of the Nigerian officers and troops have received training from American troops, who impressed with their accounts of how U.S. forces operated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nigerian troops admire fellow professionals who have succeeded in difficult situations and the combat troops in general are willing to share. Many Nigerian soldiers, especially junior officers, have access to the Internet and visit sites frequented by combat troops and know that help is available if only their own government would act. The frustration among the troops and their families is growing. That can be seen in several recent demonstrations by wives and children of soldiers, to protest the leadership problems.

And then there is the possibility of a Forever War. Boko Haram could survive for a long time via their tactics of looting and kidnapping. Those taken are usually enslaved but suitable candidates are turned into Islamic terrorists. All this is emulating the tactics of Christian terrorist organization from northern Uganda that began in 1987 and is still going. This is the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) that has sustained itself via looting, kidnapping, brainwashing (of young captives), random atrocities and slavery. It also has a long history of committing vicious and violent crimes, atrocities like mass murder, mass kidnapping, public rapes, and mutilation (with machetes and hand axes) of the living and the dead. That’s because the LRA has found that spectacular violence attracts media attention and it frightens defenseless rural populations.  LRA found that if they could do both their movement could survive vigorous efforts to destroy it. Media attention, even negative attention, gave LRA a measure of political power. While the Ugandan Army managed to drive the LRA out of Uganda with the 2002-8 "Iron Fist" operation, and then resettle over a million terrified (by LRA) Ugandans living in refugee camps in northern Uganda, the LRA continued to exist in exile. Often down to less than 200 gunmen, the LRA has wandered through Congo, Sudan and the CAR (Central African Republic), living off the rural population. In a quarter century of violence LRA has left nearly 100,000 dead and millions of people driven from their homes. Boko Haram, which has killed about 10,000 since getting started in 2005, is headed in the same direction according to those who have managed to escape from Boko Haram or were freed by the army. The scariest aspect of this is how Boko Haram has learned how to brainwash teenage captives, both male and female, to become Islamic terrorists. This includes a growing number of female suicide bombers.

In the northeastern cities, where there is no visible Boko Haram presence, there are a growing number of suicide bombings, often carried out by women who conceal the explosives under their hijab (similar to a burqa, which covers them completely). As a result police and soldiers are carefully searching those in a hijab (which is common among the more religious Moslem women in the northeast). That has resulted in a low fewer women wearing the hijab and those who do are subject to more scrutiny.

Dozens of villages in northwestern Cameroon are deserted because of Boko Haram raids from the northeastern Nigeria bases (mainly in Borno State) that Boko Haram has established on the Nigerian side of the border. The Cameroon security forces have been able to shut down many Boko Haram bases on the Cameroon side of the border but have not been able to coordinate those operations with similar ones by the Nigerian Army on the Nigerian side of the border.

August 18, 2014: Cameroon has closed all its borders with Nigeria to prevent the Ebola Virus from spreading into Cameroon. Ebola has killed over 1,300 people in West Africa in the last nine months and at least a dozen in Nigeria appear to be infected and four have died so far. Ebola spreads by contact with fluids from an infected person. The Ebola virus can survive in those fluids (usually blood) for up to five days outside the infected person. Worse, most of those infected with Ebola die. That said, Ebola is at the moment a tiny (fraction of one percent) portion of disease deaths in Africa and outbreaks have been stopped in the past by isolating the infected until they recover or die and then disposing of the body safely. But since an infected person does not show symptoms until about five days after infection there is fear that the disease could spread to a lot of people.

August 15, 2014: In the southeast (Bayelsa state) a union representing crewmen on commercial boats have threatened to strike if the government does not do something to reduce the number of pirate attacks within the Niger River Delta.

In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked a village and kidnapped several dozen men and boys.

August 14, 2014: In the southeast (Bayelsa state) the JTF (Joint Task Force of army, navy and police) found and raided a camp used by pirates to prey on passenger and cargo boats serving communities in the Niger River Delta. All the pirates escaped the approaching soldiers although some appear to have been wounded. Much equipment and weapons were captured including six speedboats and lots of recently taken loot. The pirates were young (teens and twenties) men. The captured material may provide useful clues to who the pirates were but for the moment these guys probably have enough cash to resume their attacks.  Meanwhile some pirates off the Nigeria coast and near the Malacca Strait have developed more complex but much more lucrative tactics. This involves recruiting someone who knows how to find and turn off maritime tracking devices as well as someone familiar with marine engines. This makes it impossible for the ship owner to track the ship. Then the pirates use their own personnel or force the crew to move small tankers to remote locations where most of the cargo (of oil) can be transferred to another ship and later sold on the black market. While that sort of thing requires a lot of organization, nerve and luck there have been at least two pirate gangs, one in Nigeria and another from somewhere around the Malacca Strait (Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia) that have figured out how to do this. Nevertheless most of the attacks off Nigeria and Malacca Strait are still armed robbery. Given the amount of portable electronics on a seagoing ship (both company and personal), a half dozen armed pirates can net several thousand dollars per ship hit. There are fences on shore who pay cash for this stuff and quickly move it out of the country. But stealing several thousand tons of fuel oil from a small tanker is worth a thousand times more.

August 10, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked a village near the Chad border and kidnaped 85 people. Several days later Chadian troops rescued the kidnapped villagers from an island in nearby Lake Chad and arrested six of the kidnappers as well.  

August 9, 2014: The government has declared the Ebola Virus outbreak a national emergency. The latest outbreak of Ebola began earlier this year in Guinea and most of the 1,300 who have died so far have been in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

August 8, 2014: The army drove Boko Haram out of two towns (Gwoza and Damboa) in the northern half of Borno state, an area that borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The main road to this area was blocked by Boko Haram occupying these two towns. Boko Haram gunmen drove security forces out of Damboa, which is on this highway, a month ago. Since then Boko Haram has controlled Damboa and easy access to the northern half of Borno state. For a month the army has been unable to clear Boko Haram out of Damboa and open the road. Nearly 700,000 civilians have fled the northeast so far to avoid all this Islamic terrorist activity, with about a third of them fleeing since May. Most refugees are now coming from areas around Damboa and points north, because they are not willing to live under such Boko Haram created chaos. The army has been moving more troops into the area over the last few weeks and some kind of operation was expected.  

August 7, 2014: A U.S. court approved the seizure and return to Nigeria of $480 million that former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha had stolen (mostly from Nigerian oil revenue) and stashed in the United States during his 1992-98 rule.

August 6, 2014: Boko Haram seized control Gwoza, another town on the road to Cameroon and long used by Boko Haram but not, until now, taken over by them. Gwoza is largely Christian and this attack, which left over a hundred (most of them civilians) dead was seen as part of the Boko Haram effort to chase all Christians from the largely Moslem north. The Islamic terrorists looted and burned much of the town and were still at it when the army showed up two days later. 




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