In the last three months Boko Haram has attacked and looted over 200 towns and villages in the northeast. Over half of these places were occupied by the Islamic terrorists for at least a month before they left or were driven out by troops. A new AU (African Union) of 7,500 troops (and 1,200 civilian support staff) from five countries (Benin, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad) is being assembled to chase Boko Haram out of the northeast and find and destroy their camps. Nigeria has already agreed to allow foreign troops (first from Chad and Cameroon) to operate inside Nigeria and this has already made it possible to drive Boko Haram out of dozens of villages they had been occupying in the northeast.
American intelligence agencies believe Boko Haram now has over 4,000 veteran members who supervise several thousand more new recruits and slaves. Captured teenage boys are offered an opportunity to fight, or be executed immediately (or whenever they disobey). The girls are used for sex and work around the camps. The terror, looting and slavery is all justified and encouraged by the Boko Haram interpretation of Islamic scripture. Boko Haram uses the Taliban and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) as models. Current Boko Haram tactics are right out of the ISIL playbook. Thus Boko Haram was responsible for over 10,000 deaths in Nigeria and adjacent countries in 2014. Boko Haram did so much damage because the Nigerian security forces were unable to cope.
The corruption in Nigeria, epic even by African standards, was revealed in 2014 to have wrecked the armed forces. This is not unusual but it alarmed neighboring countries, who have smaller but more effective security forces. This accounts for the better performance of troops from Cameroon, Niger and Chad against Boko Haram. The corruption in Nigeria is so bad that political and military leaders are reluctant to admit it, much less do something about it. This has led to strained relations with the United States, which refused to sell weapons to Nigeria unless some real efforts were carried out to deal with the military corruption and incompetence. The Nigerian generals and senior politicians are still holding out, mainly because many politicians believe the loyalty of corrupt senior officers is essential to keeping politicians safe from increasingly angry Nigerians (who suffer the most from the corruption).
Nothing like some stress to expose fundamental problems in a society. Delaying the elections was seen by many Nigerians as a cynical ploy by corrupt politicians to give them time to figure out how to prevent too many reform-minded candidates from getting elected (despite all the corrupt practices used to rig elections). In short, Boko Haram is not the only revolutionary movement Nigeria’s corrupt leaders have to worry about.
Many Nigerian military commanders are surprised at their inability to cope with Boko Haram. After all the Nigerian military put down a tribal rebellion in the south a decade ago and has carried out successful peacekeeping operations for decades. The difference was the southern rebels were basically gangs of oil thieves and not out to conquer and rule the Niger River Delta (and all the oil fields there) using mass murder and slavery as primary tactics. The peacekeeping operations were generally taking place in countries where the fighting had ended and the peacekeepers were carefully chosen for this duty and rarely stressed as they are now by Boko Haram. This stress extends to the Nigerian Air Force which is, for the first time, facing effective ground fire. Boko Haram doesn’t just get its ideology from other Islamic terrorist groups but also practical advise on how to deal with armed helicopters and low flying bombers (machine-guns, especially larger caliber ones, can be very effective). This has led to several helicopters and jets being lost and forced warplanes to fly higher (and less effectively if bombing) or to not use armed helicopters at all if Boko Haram has organized effective ground fire. Not all Boko Haram groups are doing this, but more are and the air force is scrambling to come up with new tactics to deal with it. Already this has included the use of Chinese UAVs, hastily purchased and armed with Chinese versions of the American Hellfire missile. The air force has to better train the operators of these UAVs if they are to be of any use and at least one if these UAVs has already been lost. The generals are still under pressure to heed the American advice and that may yet happen. But so far it has not.
February 8, 2015: In the north across the border in the Niger town of Diffa, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked killing five people. Witnesses said the suicide bomber was a young teenage male. Boko Haram gunmen were still operating outside the town as the Islamic terrorists kept trying to get into the town but were thwarted by soldiers.
February 7, 2015: The Electoral Commission delayed the February 14 presidential election until March 28th (and the state elections to April 11) because of the security crises in the northeast. This was not a popular move to most Nigerians who want to vote the current corrupt and incompetent officials out.
February 6, 2015: In the northeast hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen crossed the border into Niger and attacked the towns of Bosso and Diffa. The Islamic terrorists were defeated by troops from Niger and Chad and suffered at least 109 dead. The soldiers suffered at least 21 casualties (including four dead). Niger is Nigerias northern neighbor and has long been harassed by Islamic terrorists based in Mali to the west and Libya to the northeast.
February 4, 2015: In the northeast over the last two days several battles with Boko Haram men were fought just across the border in Cameroon. It began yesterday when a large Boko Haram force crossed the border into Cameroon and attacked a force of soldiers from Chad, who had moved to the area to deal with Boko Haram. In the ensuing battle the Islamic terrorists were defeated, suffering over 200 dead. The Chad Army lost nine dead and pursued the fleeing Islamic terrorists back across the border. Today another Boko Haram forced crossed the border and attacked the Chad troops (now reinforced by Cameroonian soldiers) and were again defeated. But before reinforcements arrived in the Cameroon border town of Fotokol Boko Haram murdered at least 70 civilians and burned down a mosque. Six Cameroon soldiers were also killed while forcing Boko Haram (which lost over a hundred dead) out of the town. Chad also used helicopter gunships and jet fighter-bombers to support their troops.
Meanwhile AU officials met in Cameroon to work out details for an AU force of 7,500 troops being assembled to fight Boko Haram. Chad has already moved 2,500 troops into Cameroon and Niger and these soldiers have clashed with Boko Haram several times and surprised the Islamic terrorists by quickly winning these clashes.
February 3, 2015: In the northeast (Gombe State) a bomb went off outside a political rally just after president Goodluck Jonathan had left. The suicide bombers were apparently two women, who were the only fatalities. Nearly twenty people were wounded. Elsewhere in the northeast (Borno State) Chad troops crossed the border from Cameroon in pursuit of Boko Haram gunmen. This was the first time Chad troops have operated inside Nigeria and they are doing so with permission. Allowing this is considered embarrassing for Nigeria, but that is less of a problem than losing the northeast to Islamic terrorists.
February 2, 2015: The air force carried out bombing attacks on Boko Haram targets in the Sambisa Forest. This is a large (60,000 square kilometers), hilly, sparsely populated area where the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states meet. It has long been a hideout for Boko Haram.
February 1, 2015: In the northeast (Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State) Boko Haram again tried to fight their way into the city but were again defeated by soldiers and local defense militia. The army claimed that hundreds of the Islamic terrorists were killed and the rest retreated. There were four columns of Boko Haram vehicles attacking at different points around the city and all were repulsed. The Islamic terrorists appeared intent on causing panic and sweeping aside resistance. That did not happen, largely because so many armed civilians turned out to build roadblocks and fight alongside the troops.
Elsewhere in the northeast (Yobe State) a bomb was set off in front of the home of a politician in the state capital. Nine people were killed and Boko Haram was suspected.
Off the coast a large (two million barrel) tanker was attacked by pirates who killed the captain and kidnapped three crew members as well as carrying off portable valuables. The “Pirate Coast” (where pirates are most active) is now off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea and not off Somalia in northeast Africa. Most of the pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are Nigerians and they attacked 31 ships and briefly hijacked nine of them in 2013 and did even more damage in 2014. The Nigerian pirates have no safe place to keep captured ships while a large ransom is negotiated for kidnapped crew. Instead they rob ships they attack and quickly leave. In some cases they arrange to hijack much of the cargo, usually at sea, by transferring to another ship at night and then scampering away before the navy or police show up. Sometimes a few of the ships’ officers are kidnapped for ransom.
January 29, 2015: In the east (Taraba state) Moslem gunmen attacked a Christian village and killed 30 and wounded many more. There had been similar attacks in the area for nearly a week. Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central Nigeria for years. The violence has gotten worse lately and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013 and nearly as many in 2014. Boko Haram has 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.
January 28, 2015: In the northeast (Adamawa state) Boko Haram has continued attacking villages. In addition to killing civilians while looting homes and businesses the Islamic terrorists are also seizing teenage boys and girls. The boys are to be turned into fighters and the girls used for sex and camp work.
January 25, 2015: In the northeast (Borno state) a large Boko Haram force was halted by troops and local militias west of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Rather than backing off the Islamic terrorists are fighting the troops, who have been reinforced by helicopter gunships and more soldiers. Over 200 of the Islamic terrorists were believed killed in several unsuccessful advances around the city. Boko Haram considers Maiduguri the birthplace of their movement and has long vowed to take it back. Doing so now would be a major accomplishment because additional troops were brought in for the visit of the president yesterday. If all these troops panicked and fled, allowing the Islamic terrorists to regain control of the city, it would be a major catastrophe for the government, which is already under a lot of pressure because of the inability of the military to keep Boko Haram from raiding at will throughout the northeast.
Elsewhere in the northeast (Adamawa state) Boko Haram attacked several villages killing dozens of civilians while looting homes and businesses. Several hundred Boko Haram also attacked the town of Monguno (140 kilometers from Maiduguri) and captured it after a nearby army base with 1,400 troops was also captured. Most of the troops fled, along with thousands of civilians.