Boko Haram and other Islamic terror groups are trying to move out of Borno state, a relatively thinly populated area in northeast Nigeria. This migration is difficult because neighboring states are prepared to destroy any such incursions. Some migration succeeds because of growing violence between pastoral (herding) tribes and farmers for control of land and water. Many of the nomadic pastoralists are Fulani, a Moslem group noted for their resourceful, opportunistic and aggressive behavior. Some Fulani groups adopted Islamic terrorism as a cover for their real estate disputes. There has also been more banditry in the Moslem north as well as more poverty because of corruption and poor government. This means less economic growth and more desperate young men who are unemployed and willing to try violence. When there’s too much banditry and tribal violence, Islamic terrorists from Borno have a chance to establish themselves. Despite that most Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State’s West Africa Province) are stuck in northern Borno, where a combined local, federal and international efforts have persuaded a growing number of Boko Haram fighters to accept amnesty and rehabilitation and employment. This effort has had some success so far but it is under constant threat of being crushed by corruption, something that is the source of most problems in the north and even the more prosperous and better educated Christian south.
Success against Islamic terrorism and other organized violence began with local efforts. In the northeast (mainly Borno state) Operations against Boko Haram, ISWAP, hostile tribal militias and bandits have often included members of the local Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force or CJTF). The strength of CJTF peaked at about 30,000 volunteers in 2017, and with the decline in Boko Haram activity in early 2018, about a third of the force was been disbanded, or at least no longer recognized and supported by the military. CJTF still helps with security around towns, cities and refugee camps in Borno State. That led to accusations of CJTF brutality and extortion. This misbehavior was rare. Your average CJTF was more interested in staying alive. The fear of a suicide bomber at a checkpoint was a real threat for these volunteers. There has always been some danger for the defense volunteers. About two percent of those who joined CJTF have been killed and many more have been wounded or injured while on duty. In effect, about ten percent of the CJTF men have been injured. But the soldiers respect them, the local civilians depend on and generally support them while Boko Haram and gangsters have come to fear them. The more senior army commanders do not support the CJTF because these civilians often confront misbehaving soldiers and embarrass the army by exposing the bad behavior. President Buhari agreed that the CJTF were part of the solution, not another problem. This is particularly true in some rural areas where local militias and professional hunters regularly find and attack Islamic terrorists in their vicinity. Boko Haram prefers to avoid these militia protected areas.
As early as 2014 some CJTF groups were launching attacks on Boko Haram, and usually winning because they knew the area and people better and often were able to launch a surprise attack at night. A major factor in this was that in the more remote areas, like near the Sambisa Forest, the CJTF groups contained a lot of local hunters. These men are professional hunters who thrive in rural areas where there is a lot more game than people. CJTF first demonstrated to the army the skills of local hunters who tracked game for a living. The army noted that the success of CJTF attack units was largely because of local hunters. Soon the army began to hire some of the hunters who were exceptional trackers as well as offering bounties if they could track down certain Boko Haram men or groups. At first Boko Haram fought back and attacked trackers or their families. That backfired because the CJTF had better information about their home areas which made it difficult for Boko Haram to make revenge attacks. The attacks were made anyway and failed so often that most Boko Haram were advised by their leaders to stay away from CJTF, especially those groups with professional hunters. There were still parts of the Sambisa Forest where Boko Haram could establish bases and avoid the CJTF but these were areas where there was less game and less of everything. That meant fewer Islamic terrorists and their captives could survive there and had to leave their sanctuaries more frequently to raid villages for supplies.
Since 2019 the Borno government and military leaders in the area have sought out experienced hunters and hired them, usually as part of CJTF “hunter-killer” units. Many hunter veterans of CJTF are willing to work full time for a while to reduce Boko Haram violence. In addition to $28 a month pay (double that for leaders of hunter teams) there is some free food for hunter’s families. The monthly pay is OK for war-torn areas of Borno but also recognizes that the hunters can still hunt and don’t have to abandon their usual work. In many rural parts of Borno the police and army can use someone who will regularly report what they see or still agree to look out for specific things. Over the last five years the federal government, led by a retired general who was elected president, gradually improved the quality of army commanders in the east, mainly Borno state, by removing commanders who were unable to get things done, including getting along with local civilians and popular local groups like the CJTF.
The CJTF often works with the MNJTF (Multi-National Joint Task Force). Since 2015 the MNJTF has proved very effective against Boko Haram and ISWAP. The 8,700-man MNJTF force maintains bases and camps near Lake Chad in northern Borno state and concentrates on hunting down and killing Islamic terrorists. MNJTF has taken the lead in containing local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups, mainly ISWAP and blocking the Islamic terrorist efforts to once more control territory in the region.
Increasing violence across the border in Borno state led to the creation of the MNJTF, which consists of troops from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria. At first the MNJTF was used mainly inside Nigeria but by early 2017 MNJTF was spending most of its time clearing Boko Haram out of border areas, especially the Lake Chad coast. Each member country assigns some of their best troops to the MNJTF and the Boko Haram have suffered heavy losses trying to deal with the MNJTF. This played a role in the 2016 Boko Haram split that turned Boko Haram operating near Lake Chad into ISWAP. MNJTF concentrated more and more on the areas around Lake Chad and has been successful at curbing ISWAP operations there.
Over the last five months joint operation by the army, MNJTF and CJTF in Borno state have led to hundreds of Islamic terrorists, mainly ISWAP, being killed and 14,600 Boko Haram (and a few ISWAP) gunmen accepting amnesty and bringing with them 51,000 civilians, most of them children and wives living with Boko Haram men in base camps. Life has been harsh for women and children living in those Boko Haram camps because they were located in remote areas where food was scarce, especially when the task force patrolling the area made it difficult to raid remote villages for food and anything else they could carry away. CJTF trackers were often able to follow Boko Haram raiders back to their base camps and that often led to negotiations about accepting amnesty.
August 14, 2022: In the northeast (Borno state) a group of ISWAP gunmen ambushed an army patrol with a roadside bomb and gunfire. In this case the soldiers promptly fired back and killed four of the ISWAP men, with the others, including several wounded, to flee. One of the dead was identified as Modu Tafjid, a known ISWAP bomb builder. That explains the bomb components found left behind, along with several weapons, by the fleeing ISWAP men.
August 13, 2022: In the west (Niger state) the army and air force responded to a tip that a large number of Boko Haram gunmen were assembling in a remote village for a meeting with Aminu Duniya, a Boko Haram commander. Two air force jets bombed the meeting site, killing dozens of the Boko Haram men, possibly including
In neighboring (to the west) Kaduna state, another tip led troops to where Boko Haram gunmen were assembling to attack a nearby village. The troops surrounded the gathering site and called in air support to attack the Boko Haram men, who had taken hostages to use as human shields. The airstrike killed or wounded about ten Boko Haram men, plus some of the civilians. The army operation continued and many more Boko Haram gunmen were killed.
August 12, 2022: In the northeast (Borno state) soldiers raided a Boko Haram area and freed four women who had been kidnapped and forced to marry Boko Haram men. One of the rescued was a Chibok girl. She was a teenage student at a rural boarding school near Chibok when Boko Haram raided the place and kidnapped over 276 teenage girls, most of them Christians. Since then, about 65 percent of the girls have been rescued. Boko Haram has continued to use kidnapping to obtain hostages for ransom or trade or to use as slaves.
August 8, 2022: In the northeast (Borno state) a combined air ground operation found and killed 28 members of a notorious Boko Haram group led by former gangster Alhaji Modu.
August 6, 2022: In the northeast (Adamawa State) troops arrested three men known to be major suppliers of food and other supplies to Boko Haram groups in the area. When captured the three had $4,200 in cash and large quantities of food and other goods (three radios, two bicycles and other items) ready for delivery. These suppliers try to keep their identities secret, at least from the security forces. That is difficult to do when CJTF men are working with the army. CJTF men know the locals and can obtain local gossip about who is engaged in shady business practices.
August 3, 2022: In the northeast (Adamawa State) an army task force, including local CJTF militiamen began a week-long operation to raid known Boko Haram and ISWAP base areas and fight when necessary but also to offer amnesty and accept surrenders. There were several clashes, mainly with ISWAP men who are inclined to fight rather than surrender. ISWAP members are usually former Boko Haram who wanted to work a more hard-core group and that usually meant USWAP. The army had more success in getting Boko Haram men to accept amnesty and surrender, along with family members they had with them in remote bases. The army amnesty operation brought out 1,755 people during a week of operations. Only 280 of those were Boko Haram gunmen, the rest were wives and children.
August 2, 2022: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen ambushed a group of soldiers and killed two of them. This was a rare win for Boko Haram because the ambushed soldiers were part of a larger task force seeking out Boko Haram and ISWAP groups in the area.
July 25, 2022: In the northeast (Borno state) eight former Boko Haram members were killed while seeking scrap metal to sell so they could buy food for themselves and their families in a nearby internment camp. Among the scrap they metal they found was an abandoned improvised bomb that had been abandoned and went off when handled.