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FACTSHEET

 July 1st – 7th July ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Tracker

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1.0 Introduction

The ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy Tracker (ECTS – Tracker) is an Open Data Platform that provides practical analysis of operational policy framework for ECOWAS counter-terrorism actions, supporting and serving as a knowledge base that promotes a common regional approach for counter terrorism by both state and non-state actors through the documentation and analyses of cases, activities and incidences of extremist violence across the West African region. This is done specifically by looking at the location, trends and patterns of incidences of violence extremism within the region. The tracker also serves as a tool in monitoring the efforts of states in implementing the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy (CTS).

2.0. Overview of the Week

The week in focus witness series of attacks across Lake Chad West Africa and the Sahel region of Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria suffer attacks

from the deadly Boko Haram sect that have been rampaging the region which range from suicide attacks mostly perpetrated by female suicide bombers nine attacks carried out in Cameroon[1]  and IEDs[2] still remain a challenge in Nigeria. Reoccurrence use of child soldier both by the Military most especially CJTF and Boko Haram remain a challenge to the ongoing fight against terrorism across the region. Long serving Boko Haram sect leader Abubakar Shekau in the cause of the week claim responsibility for the abduction of police women, while Nusrat al-Islam WalMuslimeen a group linked to Al-Qaida releases a proof of life for foreign hostage that have been held for years in Mali, as French President Emmanuel Macron meet CG5 countries to deliberate on the act of terrorism that is increasing in the region.

3.0. Trends and Patterns of Extremist Violence and Counter Terrorism

  1. The Use of Children as Child Soldiers

The use of Children as Child Soldiers has remained a challenge in terrorism and the counter terrorism efforts across the region, for instance, the 2017 United States Trafficking in Persons Report, classified Nigeria among countries that maybe sanctioned for going against Child Soldier Prohibition Act, CSPA 2008. The report stated that the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a non-governmental self-defence militia that works with the Nigerian military has continued to recruit and make use of underage for their engagement with Boko Haram activities[3]. In the week under review, Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram released a video showing how they celebrated the 2016 Salah festival, the video highlighted with children and a child soldier who posed threats to the Nigerian government as part of the group[4]

  1. The Continuous use of female suicide bombers

During the Holy month of Ramada communities in Cameroon experienced multiple suicide attacks from Boko Haram insurgent. Suicide attack within this period was perpetuated mainly by female suicide bombers.  The Fomeka, Mora and Feraea communities in Cameroon near the Nigerian border experienced these attacks, killing at least 20 people, including eight female suicide bombers[5]

  1. Abduction and Hostages:

Female police officers were abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, while long serving Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the abduction. The officers were ambushed by the sect along Maiduguri-Damboa road on June 20th. whereas in Mali, anal-Qaida group linked to Nusrat al-Islam WalMuslimeen, released a proof of life video showing foreigners they abducted and have held for years, including citizens of South Africa, Australia, Romania, Switzerland, Colombia and France[6].

In Niger, Boko Haram killed nine (9) and abducted forty (40) individuals in south-east Niger  Diffa a village town of Kablewa[i]

  • Responses from State and Non – State Actors

Following a meeting with the newly elected French president, political leaders from the Sahel Region the G5, which include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, discussed counter terrorism issues. French President Emmanuel Macron promised deploying five thousand (5000) multinational joint taskforce to fight al-Qaeda-linked groups and others in the region that have alarmed the international community after launching deadly attacks in recent months on areas that were once considered relatively safe[7].

The period under review, shows that 700 insurgent surrender to the Nigeria military. This was as a result of the special military offensive operations in Sambisa forest with a code named ‘Deep Punch’. The repentant and surrendered Boko Haram members are currently being profiled by the Nigerian military, meanwhile, the Nigerian military within the period under review lost some soldiers, recovered weapons, and neutralized planned attack by the Mamman Nur faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group at Gulumba Gana in Bama local government area of Borno  Bama[8].

The Nigerian Air force intensifies its area bombardment in the Sambisa forest following intelligence, surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission of the Sambisa forest[9].

Two Chibok girls Joy Bishara and Lydi Pogu, who escaped from the capture of Boko Haram, were offered scholarship to complete their education in the United States by a Christian non-governmental organisation. They were privileged to visit the White House and share their story of overcoming tremendous adversity with Ivanka Trump who was proud of them[10].

The federal high court sitting in Abuja dismissed the four-court charge of terrorism offences, (including sponsoring and having and hoarding information on terrorism related offences) brought against Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume on the basics that no prima facie case was established against[11].

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in the past six months recorded 3,000 births among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) registered at various camps located in the state capital between January and June.  These invariable shows the increase in the number of child birth, children and couple’s resident at the IDP Camps in Borno[12].

The Chadian military suffered a huge setback as heavy winds destroyed their aircrafts used in combating insurgents[13] within this period.

According to the Theatre Commander of the force fighting the insurgents in Nigeria, Attahiru Ibrahim, disclosed that as part of their counter terrorism efforts, the Nigerian military rescued 1,018 civilians. In the same effort, 404 Boko Haram fighters were killed, 810 Boko Haram members also surrendered to the military and 67 suspected Boko Haram members were arrested.

100 and 98 percent of the deaths among soldiers and Boko Haram members across the region happened in Nigeria[14], 2% of the Boko Haram members died in Cameroon while 65% and 35% of civilian deaths occurred in Cameroon and Niger respectively.

Further updates from the Nigerian military showed that Boko Haram carried out 97 suicide and vehicle borne attacks between March and June 2017, while they lost 11 soldiers within this period,

Logistics

Insurgents across the Lake Chad region perpetrate their violent activities through the use of Motorbikes, bicycles and Camels as decoys to ambush troops. For instance, case of an ambush were 27 bicycles was recovered[15], also in

Niger where insurgents sent forth camels as decoys before ambush by foot soldiers[16]

[1] https://www.voanews.com/a/suicide-bombings-climb-in-northern-nigeria/3929337.html

[2] https://www.naij.com/1112771-nigerian-troops-neutralises-bombs-planted-by-boko-haram.html

[3]https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/271344.pdf

[4]https://www.naij.com/1112807-boko-haram-terrorists-celebrate-sallah-sambisa-forest.html

[5]https://www.voanews.com/a/suicide-bombings-climb-in-northern-nigeria/3929337.html

[6]https://www.voanews.com/a/al-qaida-linked-mali-extremists-release-hostage-video/3924899.html

[7]http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/macron-mali-talks-leaders-africa-sahel-170702100325671.html

[8]https://www.naij.com/1113292-troops-neutralise-invading-mercenaries-hired-by-boko-haram.html

[9]https://www.naij.com/1113429-naf-frustrates-boko-haram-attempt-regrouping.html

[10]https://www.naij.com/1113084-i-proud-donald-trumps-daughter-writes-2-chibok-girls.html

[11]https://www.naij.com/1113245-breaking-abuja-high-court-dismisses-terrorism-charges-senate-leader-ndume.html

[12]http://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/nnorth-east/235675-boko-haram-borno-records-3000-births-idps-camps-six-months.html

[13]https://www.naij.com/1113172-chadian-armys-fight-boko-haram-suffers-setback.html

[14]http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/236056-11-nigerian-soldiers-404-boko-haram-fighters-killed-four-months-official.html

[15]https://www.naij.com/1112780-nigerian-troops-ambush-kill-5-boko-haram-terrorists.html

[16]http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/boko-haram-suspected-deadly-niger-attack-170703141614373.html

ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy Tracker – May 2016

 

Introduction

The ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy Tracker is an Open Data Platform that provides practical analysis of operational policy framework for ECOWAS counter-terrorism actions and promotion of common regional approach towards prevention and combating of terrorism within the Community through the documentation and analyses of the location, nature, trends and patterns of violent extremist incidences, extremist groups and government response across West Africa and beyond on daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis

 

This project is aimed at helping ECOWAS member and observer states to understand terrorist activities in the region and to track ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy (CTS) implementation efforts, through the presentation of actionable data. Ultimately, the tracker endeavours to counter violent extremism in the ECOWAS region.

 

Highlights for the Month

According to the North-East Nigeria Recovery and Peace Building Assessment Report completed in April 2016, nearly 15 million people have been affected by the violence of Boko Haram and the resulting military operations in North East Nigeria, with over 20,000 lives lost and 1.8million people displaced due to violence.[1]

This trend of extremist based violence continued in May 2016 as observed in different states across ECOWAS and Sahel countries by different groups with major attacks, including ‘the reports of not less than 30 ethnic Fulani herdsmen killed by Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria last week of April 2016 when they raided the village of Alau in Borno State. Boko Haram was also responsible for the killing of seven internally displaced persons in Goniri town of Gujba Local Government of Yobe State, Nigeria and an attack by a female suicide bomber who blew herself at the Musa Usman Secretariat in the Northeast Nigeria killing a police officer and injuring 19 others. Other events of note included the killing of five United Nations Peacekeepers in northeastern Mali on the 18th of May, three injured and the sixth person died of his injury on May 24th in Mali when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device and unknown gunmen opened fire on them. The Islamist group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility among other attacks within the month’,[2]

The month of May 2016 also was not void of violence attack in the Niger Delta of Nigeria by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and the Fulani Herds men attacks in Ekiti and Enugu state, in the country’s middle belt.

However, the fight against terrorism recorded notable progress within the month which includes the affirmation of the judgement of a federal high court in Lagos convicting and sentencing each of the three members of the dreaded terror group Boko Haram to 25 years imprisonment by the court of appeal and the willful surrendering of no fewer than 16 suspected Boko Haram fighters to the military troops[3]

 

No fewer than 16 Boko Haram fighters surrendered to military troops in Balazala and Ahamdaga Makaranta Villages’.

Source: ECOWAS CTS Tracker

 

Key Event within the Month  

 

The sequel to the Paris Summit held 2 years ago, the 2nd Regional Security Summit held in Abuja on the 14th of May 2016 with major focus on reviewing the progress made by the Lake Chad Basin member states including Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin and plan for the post conflict phase of the fight against extremist groups with members of the International community, Heads of States of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Central African Republic, Senegal, Togo and the President of France in attendance.

 

As at May 2016, about 795 Boko Haram members were held in Maroua Prison, with only 125 of them formally charged, tried and sentenced to Prison 

Source: ECOWAS CTS Tracker

 

Trends and Pattern of Extremist Violence

The trend of violent terror and its approach has continued to grow in different dimensions and this includes

Multiplicity of Attacks by different groups in one State – Burkina Faso faced multiplicity of attacks by different violent extremist groups in less than a year including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din south, and al-Murabitun of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui.

Recruitment of Foreign Nationals – There were strong speculations that foreigners were behind the attacks in Burkina Faso.

Use of Children and Girls as Suicide Bombers –   Reports of extremist attacks within the month tracked by the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Tracker and reported from the Unite Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows

 

that one in five suicide bombers used is a child, while more than 75 per cent of them are girls. There are worries that this trend may grow because of violence in the Northeast region of Nigeria has led to the displacement of more than 1,2million children in the zone.[4]

 

Boko Haram has increased its use of child suicide bombers tenfold over the past year despite more military operations targeting the militants in the Lake Chad Basin Region’,

Source: UN OCHA

 

Use of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) The Use of Improvised explosive device was prevalent as observed in the attacks targeting

  1. Eight UN Peace Keepers in Mali, killing 6 of the peace keepers and injuring others

 

  1. Four soldiers in Nigeria killing one of the soldiers and injuring 3

 

  1. On the 3rd of May, two Boko Haram suicide bombers detonated their explosives about 200kms from Kolofata but only suicided in killing themselves.

Use of Gun Shots and Burning of Victims –  Six people were killed on Friday May 20th in a village in southern Niger in an attack thought to have been carried out by Boko Haram militants, per the Defence Ministry. The victims died from gunshot sounds or being burned alive, seven other people were wounded in the attack and have been evacuated

Use of Poisoned Arrow by Self-Défense Group – the Cameroonian authorities reported a new trend of a local self-defence group using a poisoned arrow to kill a woman with explosives strapped to her body within the month

Rise of Female Headed HouseholdsWhile the rate of migration through Niger to or fro Algeria or Libya has increased, the demographics of the migrants as tracked by the Niger Border tracker shows that majority of the families migrating are female headed households, children and the elderly.

 

Nearly one in five suicide bombers is a child with more than half of them being girls

Source: ECOWAS CTS Tracker

Challenge of availability and access to Food and other basic needs – the prevalence of extremist violence has not only caused displacement of its victims from their homes, including displacing children from their parents but also has affected the availability and access to basic needs of life including food, shelter, clothing, health care and primary education. This is evidenced in the recent Lake Chad Basin: Crisis Overview Report showing that 481.000 children in the region are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.[5]

Graph piloted by ECOWAS CTS Tracker

 

Use of Niger as Transit RouteAmong the migratory issues is the growing trend of migration to & fro Algeria and Libya using Niger as transit route. From February to April 2016 alone, over 60,970 migrants have crossed through Niger moving towards Algeria or Libya or coming from Algeria or Libya to other Lake Chad destinations

Data Source: Niger Border Tracker: Graph piloted by ECOWAS CTS Tracker

Nationalities of MigrantsThe nationalities of these migrants show they are mostly citizens of Lake Chad Basins and SAHEL countries were extremist groups violence has been prevalent over the years, with Nigeria accounting for over 35% of the migrants.

Data Source: Niger Border Tracker. Graph piloted by: ECOWAS CTS Tracker

This observed rise in migration are not without its own financial cost on the side of the migrants as reports shows that on the average, the migrants spend within 85 to 345USD to migrate through Niger. Making it a growing economic trend and exploitation from the already vulnerable groups as the means of migration and cost are without appropriate

Reduction in number of incidences and death rate – From May 2015 to May 2016, incidents trends also show that the number of deaths from violent attacks has reduced from over 140 deaths to less than a 100 while the number of violent attacks has also reduced its all-time low since recording began in April 2016[6].

Strategy

Following the ECOWAS CTSSIP strategy, with focus on prevention, rescue and reconstruct, the 2nd regional security summit therefore plays a great role in improving coordination among member states, however, the ECOWAS CTSSIP calls on states to implement the outcome of the summit as outlined in its communique especially as it relates to prevention and de-radicalization activities that addresses basic needs of affected victims, ideologies, health and social issues for youths, children, women and repentant extremist group members.

Looking at some of the events and activities of the MNJTF tracked by the ECOWAS tracker within the month, the joint taskforce despite its challenges made remarkable progress, some of which includes

  • MNJTF member nations now freely share intelligence leading to current successes in the fight against Boko Haram per MNJTF Commander, Maj. Gen Lamidi Adeosun.
  • The MNJTF fighting Boko Haram in the Northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon said it has liberated at least 4,690 hostages between January to May 2016
  • The multinational forces fighting the Islamic extremists of Boko Haram arrested five of the group’s leaders and freed dozens of captive women and children, per Cameroon’s government on the 14th of May 2016
  • Arrest of Boko Haram leader, Boukar Kaou, during a raid in which 58 militants died
  • Arrest of Yacouba Toure, the number two in the Ansar Dine of the south terrorist group Harakat Ansar al-Din), linked to Al Qaeda outside Bamako by Malian Forces
  • Rescue of a second girl from the group of 276 schoolgirls kidnapped more than two years ago, by the Nigerian army

Sequel to the progress made by the Joint Taskforce, emphasis on good governance and human rights should also not be alienated while engaging at both national and regional level in pursing counter-terrorism across the region

 

Conclusion

Terrorism has become a major trend across Africa with ECOWAS and Sahelian countries are struggling to manage the burgeoning terrorist threat, which has implications for the people, economy and development in these states. These terrorist groups have explored and exploited the weaknesses existing in the porous borders, poor coordination, political conflicts, bad governance among other developmental challenges to build and strengthen their base and activities.

This threat therefore presses the need for states to be consistent with their alliance in fighting this common threat in a way that helps them prevent, rescue and de-radicalize both victims and extremist group members.

The ECOWAS counter terrorism tracker, based on its observations and trends of the incidences of violent attacks and state responses/approach in countering terrorism from the ECOWAS and Sahelian states, therefore recommends the following:

  • State parties should prioritize the implementation of the ECOWAS counter terrorism strategy

 

  • Affected states should improve intelligence sharing and coordination

 

  • States should improve tracking and managing of displaced persons – especially of vulnerable demographics like children

 

  • Include of traditional and religious leaders in engaging and de-radicalization of the affected extremist group members and communities from extremist ideologies and propaganda.

 

Contact Info

ECOWAS CTS Tracker
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
T
234(0)92902304
E
info@ecowascounterterrorism.org
Wwww.ecowascounterterrorism.org
With Support from
Access Nigeria Project

[1] North-East Nigeria Recovery and Peace Building Assessment. April 2016

[2] http://ecowascounterterrorism.org/violence-incident-update/

[3] http://ecowascounterterrorism.org/violence-incident-update/

[4] www.nigeriabulletin.co/threads/over-1.2m-children-displaced-by-boko-haram-in-northeast-unicef.213014

[5]http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Lake%20Chad%20Basin%20Snapshot_03%20June%202016%20%281%29.pdf

[6]http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Lake%20Chad%20Basin%20Snapshot_03%20June%202016%20%281%29.pdf

EXCLUSIVE: Lt. Col. Abu Ali’s Death: Why Boko Haram is killing more Nigerian soldiers – Top Military Officer

img-20161107-wa0001-1

Nigeria has been in mourning since Saturday when news broke that Muhammad Abu-Ali, a lieutenant colonel, and Nigerian Army’s most efficient fighter died in battle alongside five soldiers during an exchange of battle with the terrorist Boko Haram.

Military insiders said the Army has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the death of the country’s bravest commander and five of his troops.

But a top military officer with deep knowledge of the North-East operation has granted PREMIUM TIMES an exclusive interview detailing how the officer and his soldiers fell and why more and more soldiers were being killed by Boko Haram in recent times. The officer requested anonymity because he had no permission to discuss operational matters with the media.

EXCERPT:

Thank you very much officer for agreeing to talk to us. We are sorry to hear of the death of Lt. Col. Abu Ali, a gallant and brave officer who gave his all to his country. We also learnt that he was killed alongside some soldiers. What really happened?

What happened was that Boko Haram terrorists ambushed our troops on Friday night at Mallam Fatori. Lt Col Abu Ali was killed on his way to reinforce troops there.

Information available reveals that one officer and 49 soldiers were withdrawn from Mallam Fatori on Friday morning and Boko Haram attacked at night indicating they possibly had advance information of the troops reduction in number.

Six soldiers and 14 Boko Haram terrorists were killed alongside Lt Col Abu-Ali, who was granted special promotion in 2014 for his gallantry in the fight against Boko Haram.

There is great mourning across the theatre of operations. Everyone is in mourning mood. May God grant the senior officer Aljanat Firdaus.

But why are attacks and killing of Nigerian troops becoming rampant in the past weeks?

It is sad that the Nigerian Army is announcing that the attacks are being carried out by remnants of Boko Haram terrorists when all reasonable persons can see that Boko Haram is still a formidable force. The Nigerian Army is more concerned with pleasing the political class while the grassroots people are still suffering.

It is the duty of the Nigerian Army public relations department to make the Nigerian Army look good but it is also necessary for the Nigerian Army to take practical steps to end this insurgency by improving the equipment state of the Nigerian Army and telling the government the true state of affairs.

What is the true state of affairs?

The truth is that from September to November this year, we have lost so many troops that can’t even be accounted for.

Prominent amongst those lost are Maj DS Erasmus and 8 soldiers – 25 Sep 2016 due to IED / ambush along Bama – Banki road. Lt Col K Yusuf and 83 soldiers missing in action on 16 Oct 2016 when Boko Haram attacked troops location at Gashigar. Lt Col M Abu-Ali and five soldiers were killed on 4 November 2016 on their way to reinforce troops at Mallam Fatori during Boko Haram attack.

On 5 November 2016, two soldiers were killed at Kwada during Boko Haram attack on troops location. One soldier was wounded while another two were declared missing in action.

In another attack in Kangarwa on 6 November, one soldier was killed while four other soldiers were wounded in action. Thirteen Boko Haram terrorists were killed and unconfirmed number of them was wounded.

Why are attacks on troops becoming more and more regular?

It’s dry season here and the ground allows smooth movement of vehicles. Boko Haram terrorists have a better knowledge of the local terrain so they can easily access troops location and escape.

Furthermore, there’s pressure on Boko Haram terrorists around Sambisa general area hence they seem to have pooled forces together to concentrate on the northern Borno axis.

So what can Nigerian authorities do to reduce casualties on the side of Nigerian troops?

The major cause of casualties on troops at the moment is poor equipment state. At the moment, the equipment in the theatre are mostly worn out and almost obsolete. Provision of adequate equipment is the only answer for now. Troops confidence is a function of sound and functional equipment.

 

Remember that man without equipment is at best inefficient and machines without man are almost useless. This points to the need for adequate equipment in the theatre to minimize casualty rate in the theatre.

What kinds of equipment are obsolete, and what kinds are needed at this time?

The tanks (especially Vickers MBT) in the theatre are so worn out that they often do not get to action most times troops are under attack. This is why the semi-serviceable T-72 tanks are being moved everywhere in the theatre. This explains why Lt Col Abu-Ali was almost everywhere there was threat as he commanded the T-72 tank Battalion.

The artillery Shilka guns are even the worst. Boko Haram terrorists fear the effect of Shilka guns but I still wonder why almost all Shilkas are not serviceable in the theatre.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the Nigerian Army has not procured more Shilka guns because they are Russian made and the bottleneck to buy them is not too much like those of Western countries.

But the impression being created is that troops are better off now in terms of equipment than under Jonathan

Unfortunately, for every battle we engage in, the equipment keep wearing and to worsen issues, these equipment were not procured with their fast-moving spare parts. The big question is, how many equipment has the present government procured and where are they deployed for use?

So does it mean troops are using just AK 47 to fight Boko Haram?

That’s our personal assault rifle, which is needed after long range weapons have done much of the job but unfortunately the long range support weapons are inadequate. Eg AA GUNS, mortar tubes, artillery weapons like shilka guns etc.

So how did we achieve the initial upper hand, cutting down Boko Haram down and capturing territories from the terrorists?

 

The upper hand started in February 2015 due to the arrival of T-72 tanks in the theatre. Chadian troops also assisted in mounting pressure on Boko Haram terrorists at the same time. This resulted in Boko Haram splitting their forces to several places at the same time.

So how did we lose the plot?

Recall that there were mercenaries that fought with Nigerian Army troops in the first and second quarters of 2015.

Yes

Boko Haram seems to have good strategist who study our modus operandi and cause them to adjust accordingly. The Nigerian military may need to reappraise its approach to counter insurgency operations.

Those mercenaries really assisted us and their withdrawal signalled the gradual regrouping of Boko Haram terrorists. This is because their withdrawal was sudden and not in phases.

But why was their withdrawal sudden?

The new government terminated their contract.

What did the mercenaries bring to the table that our troops lack?

They came with armoured fighting equipment. Above all, they had night fighting capabilities.

Do you have any further information on the attack that killed Lt. Col. Abu Ali? Especially about attack coming after withdrawal of some personnel.

There is a plan by the authorities to carry out an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. He’s to be buried by 5pm today (Monday) at the national cemetery.

But why were the men withdrawn?

They were to carry out attack elsewhere in the theatre. The only controversy is why they were suddenly forced to withdraw that fateful day.

Is it not standard practice to have replacement on location before pushing men elsewhere?

It is, but exigencies of duty make us to do things haphazardly at times.

Thank you very much for talking to us.

Thank you too.

 

Boko Haram Attack: Top Army officials make contradictory claims on missing soldiers
pic-32-nigerian-army-troops-clear-boko-haram-enclaves-from-bitta-to-tokumbere-in-borno

27/10/2016

In what appears an attempt to muddle up information about the disappearance of 83 soldiers after a Boko Haram attack, two senior officers of the Nigerian Army have given uncoordinated and contradictory statements on the matter.

While the man who officially speaks for the Nigerian Army claimed the army would not release true figures of the missing soldiers, a major general several hundred kilometres away said only “39” soldiers went missing in action.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how 83 Nigerian soldiers, including a commanding officer, went missing after a major attack by insurgents.

Several of the soldiers, who fled their station due to the superior firepower of the terrorists, were later feared dead from drowning in the River Yobe.

On Wednesday, at two different interactions with the media, Army spokesman Sani Usman, and Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in the north-east, issued different statements to reporters about the number of missing troops.

While Mr. Usman, a colonel, told an online news platform, Pulse Nigeria, that the Army would not disclose the number of missing soldiers, Mr. Irabor told reporters in Maiduguri that 39 soldiers were missing.

In his interview, Mr. Usman told Pulse Nigeria the Army issued a statement after the attack, but deliberately conceal information on the number of missing troops.

“We issued a statement of what happened,” he said. “We did not mention the number of soldiers that were missing.

“Eventually, we went to the theatre of war. But they didn’t bother to ask us that we should tell them the number of soldiers that were missing.”

Despite being pressed about the specific number of those missing, Mr. Usman remained elusive.

Apart from deflecting questions, Mr. Usman also charged this newspaper to justify the missing persons — completely absolving the Army of the responsibility to give names and figures of the missing uniformed men.

“Yeah, but the figures Premium Times reeled out are outrageous and not correct. I tried to make them understand that look, all you have to do is ask for information, not speculate, not say that everybody is a criminal because that is the way it looks like,” Mr. Usman said. “I declined to comment on the number Premium Times gave so that wherever they got that information, they should go and justify it.”

On his part, Mr. Irabor was quoted by the New Agency of Nigeria as saying that the Army declared 39 soldiers missing.

“It is true that about 39 soldiers were declared missing,” the major general said even though his statement was the first official one mentioning a figure of missing officials.

Mr. Irabor added that some of the soldiers had returned, but declined to provide figures, NAN reported.

”I want to inform you that a sizeable number of our soldiers have returned to base,” Mr. Irabor said. “I think it is only a handful that have not been found.”

Mr. Usman had in a different interview maintained that the Army will not release the number of missing soldiers to avoid complicating rescue efforts.

Notwithstanding, PREMIUM TIMES stands by its reports that 83 soldiers were feared missing in the attack, which also left some soldiers dead.

As with the missing, the Army had been silent on the number of dead soldiers from the attack.

On Wednesday morning, this newspaper reported that the Army had launched a probe into the Gashigar attack.

A lieutenant colonel, who is among those missing, has since been replaced by a captain, who is acting as commanding officer of the affected battalion.

The army’s refusal to come clean on the fate of the soldiers appears part of efforts to manipulate information to the public on the happenings in the north-east.

In December 2015, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, asked the media to consider “national interests” when reporting Boko Haram attacks, a euphemism used by many governments to seek suppression of unfavourable reports.

“Acting in the national interest means not playing up reports of cowardly Boko Haram attacks on soft targets,” Mr. Mohammed said during a press briefing on Christmas Eve.

Also, following our exclusive report last Saturday about how soldiers were enduring months of unpaid salaries, with their allowances being held by their superiors, the Army hurriedly began paying them that same weekend.

A number of soldiers confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES.

Presently, family members of soldiers stationed at Gashigar are getting increasingly agitated because they had not been able to contact their loved ones.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that telecom signals were not functional in the location, making it difficult for family members to confirm whether their loved ones were amongst those missing or not.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Nigerian Army probes how 83 soldiers disappeared after Boko Haram attack

troops kill 2 commanders

26/10/2016

The Nigerian Army has opened an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of scores of soldiers after a Boko Haram attack last Monday, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

The Army has also replaced the commanding officer who was amongst the 83 soldiers that went missing in the attack.

Top level military officials familiar with the development told PREMIUM TIMES that the enquiry was instituted by the Nigerian Army 8th Task Force Division in Monguno, Borno State.

Members of the enquiry panel are still being identified by our sources, but they were drawn from the Nigerian Army 8th Division Provost Group also in Monguno.

The development came as military authorities continued to withhold information from the public, on the disappearance of a large number of soldiers.

The reports, published exclusively by this newspaper, detailed how soldiers attached to the 145 Task Force Battalion came under attack while manning a station in Gashigar, Borno State, near the border with the Republic of Niger.

The assault, which started around 5:00 p.m. on October 17, left yet unknown number of Nigerian soldiers dead.  Some soldiers drowned in the Yobe River, while several others went missing.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the soldiers abandoned their post due to the superior fire power of the terrorists, who also came in large numbers.

By the next morning, it became clear that about 83 soldiers, including a commanding officer, were missing. At least 22 others were rescued by their Nigerien counterparts.

The rescued ones were dispatched to a hospital in Diffa, southern Niger.

Despite relentless demands for information about the incident, the military has yet to provide details to Nigerians.

Similarly, family members of soldiers stationed at the location of the attack are getting increasingly agitated because they haven’t been able to contact their loved ones.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that telecom signals in the area have been put off, making it difficult for family members to confirm whether their loved ones were amongst those missing.

“There is tension and apprehension in the battalion,” one of our sources said. “There is no phone network service in the location. Hence, most of the families do not know who is missing or not.”

PREMIUM TIMES also gathered the Army has asked Long John, a captain, to start acting as the commanding officer because he’s the next most senior officer to K. Yusuf, a colonel, who went missing.

The military has also intensified rescue efforts for the missing soldiers.

The Multinational Joint Task Force and troops attached to 8th Task Force Division have been on patrol for about a week now, as part of the rescue effort.

Army spokesman, Sani Usman, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday night that rescue efforts were underway. But said he won’t disclose the number of missing soldiers.

 

EXCLUSIVE: How several Nigerian soldiers drowned in River Yobe after Boko Haram attack

20/10/2016

A yet unknown number of Nigerian soldiers drowned in the Yobe River in North-East Nigeria as they tried to escape intense fire from Boko Haram fighters on Monday, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.

Also, no fewer than 22 soldiers are currently recuperating in a hospital in neighbouring Niger Republic following the attack.

The troops were manning an outpost in Gashigar, Borno State, near the border with Niger, when hundreds of terrorists advanced rapidly towards them, forcing the troops to abandon their position with some diving into the nearby river, top military sources familiar with the development told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday.

The Nigerian Army had on Tuesday distributed a statement announcing the assault on Nigerian troops, but blamed it on “escaping Boko Haram remnants.”

But a day after the statement, which was signed by Sani Usman, a colonel, details of what actually transpired on the battlefield that day and the reaction of commanders on the ground have been exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

According to the security sources, the soldiers, attached to 145 Task Force Battalion, came under attack around 5:00 p.m. on Monday, but rescue operation did not yield result until the next day.

On that Tuesday, three rescue operations were carried out by soldiers from the neighbouring Republic of Niger operating in Ngarwa.

Around 7:00 a.m., they rescued the first set of nine Nigerian soldiers. At about 2:00 p.m., seven more were rescued. The last set of six troops was rescued around 5:30 p.m. in the River Komadougou Yobe, which empties into Lake Chad through Niger.

 

The troops, numbering 22, were dispatched to Diffa General Hospital in Niger. Two of them sustained gunshot wounds while the rest were said to have been rescued unscathed.

The casualty figure, including those who drowned, was yet to be determined as at the time of filing this report.

The sources said the troops have started recounting the incident to their superiors.

The soldiers said they were manning their post in Gashigar when they learnt that suspected terrorists, dressed in black and multi-coloured camouflage, were approaching in several utility trucks while chanting ‘Allah Akbar!’ (Allah is great).

“Troops then had to flee from their position because of their their inability to take on the terrorists in such a large number and firepower,” one of our sources said.

“The terrorists then began chasing them, and we learnt that many jumped into the Yobe River where some of them drown or get fatally shot by the attackers.”

The soldiers also said Boko Haram seized their armoured vehicle and set it alight.

But the sources said the military leadership might open an investigation into the attacks to establish the claims of the soldiers.

FILE PHOTO: Boko Haram
Boko Haram

One source said some of the claims made by the troops were doubtful.

For instance, the commanders said it is difficult to explain how utility trucks were used to dispossess soldiers of their armoured vehicles especially when the soldiers said they were standing alert in their position.

The leadership also found it curious that the soldiers were rescued with their bullets still largely unspent.

“If they actually came under attack while they were fully at alert, then they should have exhausted their ammunition before taking to their heels,” the source said. “At least that much should be clear.”

Mr. Usman did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments.

Nigerian troops are fighting alongside their counterparts from Cameroon and the Republic of Niger.

Monday’s development marked the first time in more than two years that Nigerian troops would come under superior firepower that required foreign military personnel to come to counter.

A similar incident last occurred in August 2014 when about 480 troops crossed the border into Cameroon while fleeing Boko Haram.

It also underscored the renewed vigour of the sect to launch major attacks on not just civilians but uniformed men after losing the huge swathes of land it once controlled.

Besides losing territory, the insurgents had also been largely decimated by the troops which experts said is responsible for their activities being whittled down across their stronghold in the northeast.

The insurgency, which began in 2009, has left approximately 20,000 people dead and displacement of millions.

Boko Haram leaders recently engaged in negotiation with the Nigerian government which led to last week’s release of 21 of the over 200 girls kidnapped from Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014.

 

21/10/2016: 83 Nigerian soldiers still missing days after Boko Haram attack

Soldiers

At least 83 Nigerian soldiers, including a commanding officer, are still missing days after they came under a Boko Haram attack, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

Top level military sources monitoring the development told this newspaper that the soldiers were still missing in action as of Friday morning, four days after the attack.

The Army confirmed the attack in a statement on Tuesday, but has not given further updates. It did not also admit 83 soldiers were missing.

The latest update from several military personnel, follows our earlier report on how  Nigerian troops drowned in a river as they scampered for safety in the face of a superior firepower from the terrorists.

While about 22 of the fleeing soldiers were later rescued by their Nigerien counterparts and dispatched to a hospital in Diffa, southern Niger, several others were fatally wounded after Boko Haram opened fire on them when they jumped into the River Yobe.

The Army leadership has established contact with the 22 soldiers —including two that sustained serious gunshot wounds— recuperating in the Niger hospital, PREMIUM TIMES understands.

The missing Commanding Officer of 223 Tank Battalion in Gashigar, was identified as K. Yusuf, a lieutenant colonel.

Military sources said the troops could not withstand Boko Haram because they had only two light armour tanks to work with.

Even the two tanks were withdrawn from the battlefront in Damasak to Gashigar, leaving soldiers in Damasak and other small units nearby with no tank.

“May God touch the heart of our dear president to equip the Army,” the source said. “How have we offended him that has made him not to equip us as promised?” one source said. “May God touch his heart to forgive. Our men are dying daily here.”

Besides the poor equipment, the renewed show of strength by Boko Haram has frightened many, coming after months of relative success by Nigerian troops.

Since the beginning of this year, the Army had maintained that troops were clearing the sect’s remnants across the troubled Northeast as a precursor to a new phase of winding down combat operations.

The Buhari administration claimed credits for the “improved morale” of the troops which had made it possible for previously displaced residents to return to their communities and commence rebuilding efforts.

Corruption returns

But high-ranking sources on the ground told PREMIUM TIMES the latest setback was because poor morale had returned to the battlefield.

“On the day they were dislodged, troop’s morale was at the lowest ebb and troops were not ready to face the terrorists,” security sources said.

The sources said the soldiers have had to endure months of unpaid salaries and their allowances also being held by their superiors.

All military sources who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES asked that their identities be protected because of the sensitivity of the issue.

This turn of event had compelled some commanders on the battlefield to go out of their way in search of financial support to keep their men fed — albeit poorly.

“The cause of the low morale was due to their being fed once a day and the insensitivity of the authorities to pay them their allowances,” the source said. “Only part payment of their allowance for August has been paid to date.”

“The commanders on the ground go out of their ways to incur debt in order to feed their troops.

“The ration cash allowance meant for feeding was last paid for the month of August. So the Commanding Officers on the ground are the worst hit,” the sources said.

The sources blamed alleged greed of a few brigade commanders for the situation the troops now find themselves.

“Some brigade commanders reduce the official feeding ration of N500 per day to a meagre N300 just to make money. Our findings reveal that most locations outside Maiduguri only feed their troops once a day with mostly beans,” the sources said.

The sources said this “insatiable craze for quick money” bears a stark similarity with what obtained under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

“The last administration doled out a lot of money to the theatre of operations which was mismanaged,” the source said.

Other sources said the current pain is part of the consequences of a new distribution policy put in place by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who came in a little over a year ago.

“The present Chief of Army Staff, in his good effort to minimise waste, decided to check these excesses by reducing maintenance allowance for the various units by half.

“So the commands are not too happy with the development and have resorted to looking into troops feeding money,” one source said.

They, nonetheless, described the policy as “a patriotic one” which was put in place to check the commanders’ use of allowances by “to settle political godfathers and patronise women”.

Army spokesman, Sani Usman, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments.

Nigerian troops are fighting alongside their counterparts from Cameroon and the Republic of Niger.

Monday’s development marked the first time in more than two years that Nigerian troops would come under superior firepower that required foreign military personnel to come to their rescue.

A similar incident last occurred in August 2014 when about 480 troops crossed the border into Cameroon while fleeing Boko Haram.

The insurgency, which began in 2009, has left approximately 20,000 people dead and displacement of millions.

Boko Haram leaders recently engaged in negotiation with the Nigerian government which led to last week’s release of 21 of the over 200 girls kidnapped from Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014.

 

Nigerian Army Owes Us Two Months’ Allowances, Say Troops Fighting Boko Haram

Speaking with SaharaReporters under anonymity, the soldiers said the non-payment of their allowances by the Army has hampered their capacity to attend to the needs of their families and has dampened morale on the battlefield.

Troops involved in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State have alleged that they are being owed two months’ allowances by the Nigerian Army and have called on the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to intervene.

Some of the aggrieved soldiers claimed that they have not been paid their allowances for August and September. Speaking with SaharaReporters under anonymity, the soldiers said the non-payment of their allowances by the Army has hampered their capacity to attend to the needs of their families and has dampened morale on the battlefield.

“Our allowances are usually enough to take care of our needs. But the last time we were paid was in July. I want to appeal to the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Buratai for the immediate release of our allowances, though he may not know that we have not been paid. However, our morale is low. We are staking our lives in the defense of the country,” lamented a soldier.

An Army officer, who also spoke anonymously, corroborated the fact of the non-payment of troops’ allowances for two months. “It is true that we are yet to be paid our allowances for two months. Things are very difficult for us, especially given the rise in prices of various items. We cannot protest because it is against the Army regulations,” he said ruefully.


Nigerian troops on patrol

 

Nigerian soldiers fighting Boko Haram not owed salaries – Army

Soldiers

The Nigerian Army on Thursday denied media reports that soldiers deployed to fight insurgents in the northeast were angry about non-payment of their allowances.

In a statement signed by its acting director of media relations, Sani Usman, the Army blamed “mischievous media house” for the story and said all payments due to the troops in the northeast as well as those who participated in other missions abroad had been paid.

“The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to some stories going round the media circles with the title “Disquiet in the war front as soldiers complain of unpaid allowance” alleging that there was problem in the Nigerian Army due to non-payment of allowances to some soldiers serving in the North East.

“In particular, they were alleging non-payment of outstanding peacekeeping operations allowance of troops that served in Guinea Bissau under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States and operation allowances to some troops in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, among others.

“The issues contained in such publications are not true nor correct. While some media treated the matter professionally, giving the military benefit of doubt and sought to know the truth, others mischievously went to town with the false story without recourse to ethics of the profession and bothering to find out from the military,” the statement said.

“The effort of the former is quite commendable and really appreciated, while that of the latter is quite unfortunate.”

Mr. Usman however said that non-payment of operational allowances to troops was a “minor internal military administrative matter” which had already been resolved.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to inform the public that the issue of non-payment of peacekeeping operations allowance is a minor internal military administrative matter which was treated and resolved accordingly and has no bearing on the fight against terrorism and insurgency as they mischievously alleged.

“It should be reiterated that the alleged non-payment of operations allowance among the returnee peacekeepers was due to administrative hitches which was solved to the point that all outstanding peacekeeping operations have been paid and the last batch payment was done last Tuesday.

“As regards to payment of operations allowances, it is borne out of deliberate mischief and failure to comply with the new measures aimed at ensuring probity and accountability in the Service. All officers and soldiers are now paid their operations allowance directly into their account.”

The Army attributed non-payment of some individuals’ allowance to a lack of compliance to directive and duplication of names.

“All those that did not receive theirs was due to non-compliance with the directive of giving correct account details or duplication of names due to recent postings.

“This has been explained to all those affected and efforts were on to rectify same shortly.

“We wish to state further that those soldiers involved or complaint to the media are very few compared to the soldiers in the operation area who are working assiduously to finally clear the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists.

“Majority of our troops have been receiving their allowances regularly. The very few undisciplined ones cannot be used to distract us, neither should they be used as yardstick to measure troops’ general wellbeing and performance,” Mr. Usman said.

 

02/10/2016: FACT-CHECK: Buhari’s Independence Day Claim on Boko Haram untrue

pic-6-71st-general-assembly-of-united-nations-in-new-york

“On Security, we have made progress.  Boko Haram was defeated by last December – only resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children.” — President Muhammadu Buhari during his 2016 Independence Day speech.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s repeated claim that his administration has defeated Boko Haram has raised several eyebrows.

On Saturday, in his Independence Day speech, Mr. Buhari repeated an oft-stated claim; saying, “Boko Haram was defeated by last December.”

A fact-check of the president’s claim, however, shows it falls short of meeting Mr. Buhari’s own definition of victory and the target he set for himself in the war against Boko Haram.

The Claims

Mr. Buhari’s seeming desperation to proclaim victory in the war against Boko Haram, despite contrary evidence, appears to have been self inflicted.

It started on August 1, 2015, about two months after he assumed office, when he visited the Republic of Benin on a courtesy call on former President Boni Yayi in Cotonou.

“I assure you that we will defeat Boko Haram by the end of this year,” he said while discussing the military cooperation between the two countries with his host.

He made a similar comment  when he administered the Oath of Office on newly appointed service chiefs two weeks later.

“You need to brace up and continue to team up with other stakeholders to come up with a well-coordinated joint effort which will bring a desired end to these insurgencies within three months,” Mr. Buhari said during the State House ceremony on August 13, 2015.

The declaration earned Mr. Buhari the ire of Nigerians and a few security experts from other countries at the time.

Among those who questioned the wisdom in Mr. Buhari’s statement was a former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon.

“I can tell you this, nobody can really talk about when any particular operation is going to end,” Mr. Gowon said. “And as a (former) commander-in- chief, I know this.

“Yes, you can say you target a particular time, but it may finish before that time or it may go slightly beyond. To end it, that is the most important thing.”

But rather than yield to calls for caution, the administration encouraged military chiefs to make public statements about their readiness to beat the deadline as suggested by the president.

“We are currently working on the December deadline by re-addressing our strategies to ensure that we meet the target,” the Chief of Defence Staff, Gabriel Olonisakin, said on October 7, 2015.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram continued its onslaught across the Northeast, where over 50 attacks left hundreds dead and properties worth billions of naira destroyed between August 1 and December 31, 2015.

In December, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said Mr. Buhari had defeated the seven-year long insurgency within six months of assuming power.

Both Mr. Buhari, Mr. Mohammed and other officials brought the message into the new year. They ignored expert opinions and were usually quick to dismiss Boko Haram attacks as desperate tactics by the group’s remnant.

When he played host to the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, on February 12, Mr. Buhari made another victory claim.

“What they have resorted to is using improvised explosive devices to cause maximum casualties on soft targets as they did yesterday, doing what they are capable of doing now,” Mr. Buhari said. “But for them to organize conventional attacks on military, police installations and take hold towns, I think they are not able to do that.”

From January till now, Mr. Buhari had managed to repeat the claims at meetings with foreign leaders.

The Facts

But daily realities showed that the victory claims are not only premature but also exaggerated as our partner found in the previous work cited above.

Abubakar Shekau in new video

Abubakar Shekau in new video

Within the last two weeks alone, the media has been awash with reports of intensified activities of Boko Haram across the Northeast

On September 17, the United Nations found that more than two million people are still held in areas controlled by the sect.

The BBC also reported this week that the insurgents had run over settlements and unfurled their flag.

In a September 25 attack, at least four soldiers were fatally wounded by Boko Haram during a gun battle.

Attacks on military outposts and a town near Chibok were also reported within the last two weeks.

Although what counts as ‘victory’ remains vague, but Mr. Buhari offered a compromise during his inaugural speech on May 29 that he seemed to have long abandoned.

“The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued,” Mr. Buhari said. “But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.”


08/08/2016: Suspected Militants Kill Three JTFDF Members In Nembe

Three members of the Joint Task Force, code named Operation Delta Safe were allegedly killed on Monday morning in Nembe, a riverine area of Bayelsa State.

Niger Delta Militants

The officers came under attack at a checkpoint mounted by the Nembe waterway checkpoint by persons suspected to be militants.

Reports say the suspects who were in a gunboat were dressed in white, disguised as part of a group returning from a burial ceremony.

The militants opened fire on the officers and stole two gunboats belonging to the officers.

In a statement, a spokesman for the military, Lieutenant Commander, A. Ahmed, said the attack occurred at about 10:00am local  time.

“The commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, has consequently deployed reinforcement team to apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” the statement read.

He further warned that henceforth, Operation Delta Safe would go on offensive to fish out criminals in the region.

Lieutenant Commander, Ahmed said that the attack by militants was as a result of the ongoing operation of the Joint Task Force operation Delta Safe aimed at flushing out all forms of criminality especially pipeline vandalism and destruction of illegal refinery within the region.

He further assured law abiding public particularly the Nembe community that Operation Delta Safe was mandated to ensure conducive and safe water ways for legitimate business in the Joint Operation Areas. (source: Channelstv)

 

Mali crisis: Key players

Mali 7

Mali is in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis, one of the most serious since the landlocked West African country gained independence from France in 1960.

It was hit by a coup in March 2012 – and a rebellion in the north that has caused alarm around the world.

The former colonial power has now deployed troops after an appeal from Mali’s interim president.

Here is a guide to some of the main players:

 

The Islamist rebels

Mali 8The five main Islamists groups in Mali are Ansar Dine, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Signed-in-Blood Battalion and the Islamic Movement for Azawad (IMA).

Ansar Dine is seen as a home-grown movement, led by renowned former Tuareg rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly.

Its objective is to impose Islamic law across Mali and its full name in Arabic is Harakat Ansar al-Dine, which translates as “movement of defenders of the faith”.

In contrast, AQIM – the north African wing of al-Qaeda – has its roots in the bitter Algerian civil war of the early 1990s, but has since evolved to take on a more international Islamist agenda.

It emerged in early 2007, after the feared Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) aligned itself with Osama Bin Laden’s international network.

The group has since attracted members from Mauritania and Morocco, as well as from within Mali and its neighbours, such as Niger and Senegal.

 

Idolatry
AQIM says its aim is to spread Islamic law, as well as to liberate Malians from French colonial legacy.
The movement is known for kidnapping Westerners, and ransom money is believed to be a key source of revenue for AQIM, alongside drug-trafficking.

The third Islamist group, Mujao, is an AQIM splinter group, formed in mid-2011.

It says its objective is to spread jihad to West Africa rather than confine itself to the Sahel and Maghreb regions – the main focus of AQIM.

But Mujao’s first major operation was in Algeria in October 2011, when it kidnapped three Spanish and Italian aid workers in the town of Tindouf. The hostages were freed in July 2012, reportedly after a ransom was paid.

Although it has many Malian Tuaregs within its ranks, Mujao is believed to be led by a Mauritanian, Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou.

Before France launched a military offensive on 11 January 2013 to drive out the militants, Mujao’s sphere of influence was mainly in north-eastern Mali, where it controlled key towns such as Kidal and Gao, regarded as the drug centre of Mali.

Ansar Dine’s influence was mainly in the north-west, where it captured the historic city of Timbuktu in May 2012.

The group split in January 2013, when the IMA – led by Alghabass Ag Intalla, an influential figure in Kidal – was formed.

Mr Intalla was a high-ranking member of the Ansar Dine team which negotiated with Mali’s government until late 2012.

He says he split from Ansar Dine because he opposes “terrorism”, and favours dialogue.

The IMA says it champions the cause of the people of northern Mali, who say they have been marginalised by the government based in far-off Bamako since independence in 1960.

AQIM operated freely across the north since its formation in 2007, and helped Ansar Dine and Mujao to seize power of key northern cities in 2012.

Its recruits were said to have been part of the police force which imposed Sharia in Timbuktu.

The Arabic TV channel Al Jazeera reports on its website that its correspondent saw top AQIM commander, the Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel who is also known as Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, touring Timbuktu’s main market last year.

There are unconfirmed reports that AQIM has also given training in the vast Malian desert to Boko Haram, the Islamist group which has carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations in Nigeria.

The Signed-in-Blood Battalion, led by the Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also has strong ties with Ansar Dine and Mujao.

It was formed late last year as an AQIM offshoot after Belmokhtar fell out with the group.

According to Mauritania’s Sahara Media website, which has strong contacts among the militants, Belmokhtar joined the administration of Gao after it was seized by Mujao.

All these militants follow the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi/Salafi sect of Islam, making them unpopular with most Malian Muslims who belong to the rival Sufi sect.

They have tried to impose their version of Islam, amputating limps of people convicted of crimes and and destroying Sufi shrines, which they claim promote idolatry.

The UN Security Council has warned that that the destruction of shrines in Timbuktu, a world heritage site, could amount to a war crime.

According to a report in India’s The Hindu newspaper, Ansar Dine and Mujao have expanded the rebellion beyond the Tuaregs by incorporating a number of other ethnic groups like the Bella and Songhai (who have historically opposed the Tuareg) into a multi-ethnic force, motivated by religious fervour.

 

ethnic rebelsThe ethnic rebels

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym of MNLA) is ethnically driven, fighting mostly for the rights of Mali’s minority Tuareg community.

It was formed by Malian Tuareg in 2011, as a successor to previous rebel groups.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym of MNLA) is ethnically driven, fighting mostly for the rights of Mali’s minority Tuareg community.

It was formed by Malian Tuareg in 2011, as a successor to previous rebel groups.

During Col Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, many Malian Tuareg joined his army, in a move that was welcomed by Mali’s government to end conflict within its borders.

After Col Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011, they returned to Mali, swelling the ranks of the MNLA as it spearheaded an uprising against the Malian army, in alliance with the Islamists.

The Tuareg who were in Libya – described by some analysts as an “arms bazaar” – also brought with them weapons, including surface-to-air missiles which the MNLA said it had used to shoot down a Malian Air Force MIG-21 jet in January 2012.


Supporting France

By April of that year the MNLA-led fighters had routed government forces and the group declared the north an independent state, named Azawad.

However, no other country recognised the state, showing the MNLA’s isolation in the global arena.

At the same time, its alliance with the Islamists collapsed and Ansar Dine and Mujao drove its forces out of the main northern towns.

Some analysts believe that the MNLA’s influence waned after it ran out of money, causing many of its fighters to defect to Ansar Dine and Mujao.

The Islamists are far richer, earning money in recent years by kidnapping Westerners for ransom and trafficking cocaine, marijuana and cigarettes.

The MNLA has come out in support of France’s military intervention, hoping that this will help it regain control in the north.

Two important figures in the MNLA are the general secretary Bila Ag Cherif and Mohamed Ag Najim, the head of the movement’s military wing.

At the same time, the group has watered down its demand for independence, saying it will settle, as a first step, for autonomy.

Last year, the MNLA endorsed mediation efforts by Burkina Faso to end the Malian conflict.

Ansar Dine – the home-grown Islamist movement – also expressed support for the initiative. It had announced a ceasefire in November to give peace talks a chance.

But in early January, the ceasefire broke as Ansar Dine and the Malian army accused each other of resuming hostilities.

 

The junta leaderThe junta leader

As the rebels were gaining ground in the north in early 2012, Malian soldiers staged a mutiny at the Kati military camp located about 10km (six miles) from the presidential palace in Bamako.

It culminated in a coup, led by a mid-ranking army officer Capt Amadou Sanogo, one of the few officers who did not flee the Kati camp when the rank-and-file soldiers began rioting and then headed for the seat of government.

Having overthrown President Amadou Toumane Toure, he promised that the Malian army would defeat the rebels. But the ill-equipped and divided army was no match for the firepower of the rebels, who tightened their grip over the north in the immediate aftermath of the coup.

Capt Sanogo, who is in his late 30s, is from Segou, Mali’s second largest town some 240km (150 miles) north of Bamako, where his father worked as a nurse at Segou’s medical centre.

Former Mali-based journalist Martin Vogl describes the army officer as a forceful, confident and charismatic man, friendly but with a slightly abrupt manner.

In the army all his professional life, Capt Sanogo received some of his military training in the US – including intelligence training.

Ironically, Mali was until recently seen as a relative success story in terms of US counter-terrorism efforts.

The US had trained Malian forces to tackle Aqim, but these soldiers – led by Capt Sanogo – staged the coup in Mali.

US Africa Command head, Gen Carter Hamm, has said he is “sorely disappointed” with the conduct of some of the US-trained Malian soldiers.

Some of the elite US-trained units are also said to have defected to the Islamist rebels, who they were originally trained to fight.

Capt Sanogo has since handed power to a handpicked civilian government, but was recently named the head of a committee to oversee reforms in the military and is believed to be paid about $7,800 (£5,250) a month.

 

The interim PresidentThe interim president

Dioncounda Traore had long harboured presidential ambitions – but he had hoped to come to power in elections originally scheduled for April 2012.

He was born in 1942 in the garrison town of Kati, just outside of the capital Bamako.

He pursued his higher education in the then Soviet Union, Algeria and France, where he was awarded a doctorate in mathematics.

He returned to Mali to teach at university – before getting involved in politics.

He was a founding member in 1990 of the political party Alliance for Democracy in Mali and between 1992-1997 he held various ministerial portfolios including defence and foreign affairs.

In 2007, he was elected as speaker of the National Assembly.

He was an ally of the deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure, who had become deeply unpopular.

As a consequence, many Malians are wary of Mr Traore, who is not seen as charismatic, says former Bamako-based journalist Martin Vogl.

This boiled over in May 2012, when supporters of the coup attacked Mr Traore in his office, forcing him to seek medical treatment in France.

When Ansar Dine ended its ceasefire and entered the central town of Konna on 10 January, the interim president appealed to France – the former colonial power – for military help.

He declared a state of emergency, arguing that the rebels wanted to expand “criminal activities” across the country.

France agreed to his request, saying it could not allow a “terrorist state” to emerge in Mali.

 

Ousted PresidentThe ousted president

Amadou Toumani Toure – the army general widely credited with rescuing Mali from military dictatorship and establishing democracy in Mali – fled to Senegal after the March 2012 coup.

At first, forces loyal to him resisted the military junta, but he eventually accepted that his rule was over.

Known as ATT, Mr Toure himself first came to power in a coup in 1991 – overthrowing military ruler Moussa Traore after security forces killed more than 100 pro-democracy demonstrators.

He handed power back to civilian rule the following year – gaining respect and the nickname “soldier of democracy”.

He went on to win presidential elections in May 2002, and was re-elected in 2007.

Born in 1948, ATT had no official party – and had always sought the backing of as many political groupings as possible.

His critics repeatedly accused him of being soft on militant Islamists, diverting US-supplied money and weapons to fight the MNLA, whom he saw as a bigger threat.

Analysts doubt that Mali will have another democratically elected president anytime soon.

 

Foreign powersForegin Powers

At first, the West African regional body, Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) – of which Mali is a member – spearheaded initiatives to resolve the complex Malian conflict.

Alongside Burkina Faso’s mediation effort, it was drawing up plans to send troops to Mali.

But a UN-approved deployment was expected to take place only in September, so that the mediation effort could be given a chance to succeed and troops could be given training.

African leaders did not seem confident that a regional force could win a war against the rebels and appealed for help from Western powers.

In early January, the African Union chairman – Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni – called for Nato to lead an Afghanistan-styled intervention in Mali.

Of the Western powers, the US was said to be most reluctant to support military action.

In contrast, France was a staunch advocate of intervention soon after the rebels’ 2012 gains, but wanted an African force to be in the forefront of battle.

Following the new rebel advance in January this year, France felt it could no longer wait for African troops to be deployed and declared war on the rebels.

Now, Ecowas has started to deploy troops, which are expected to number more than 3,000 troops. Nigeria will form the backbone of the force, contributing 900 soldiers.

Other countries that have pledged troops include Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Chad, which is not part of the regional body Ecowas, has also sent a large number of soldiers to work in co-ordination with French troops.

Among North African states, Egypt has condemned France’s intervention and has pushed for peace talks to end the conflict.

Algeria was known to have privately argued against military intervention when the idea was first mooted, fearing that the rebels would retreat to its side of the border in the face of a military assault, destabilising its territory even further.

However, it has since changed its position, allowing France to use its air space to launch strikes in northern Mali. (source: BBC News)

 

Tensions, Armed Groups Emerge in Central Mali

Mali

DOUENTZA, MALI—

 

When it comes to Mali, attention has focused on the conflict in the north, but over the past year tensions have been climbing in the central part of the country as well. New armed groups have emerged in the face of continued banditry and disputes over resources.

In the courtyard of the mayor’s office in Kerena, shaded by neem trees, young men sit idle.

No one is grazing their cattle anymore, out of fear, says Moussa Issa Bary, a herder from this village in Mali’s central Mopti region.

He says “we are afraid of everyone, mainly the armed bandits on motorbikes that roam the countryside, but also the security forces that arrest you if they find you in the bush because think you support the rebels.”

 

Mali 2

By rebels, he is referring to a broad and ever-evolving spectrum of armed groups that have been emerging around the Mopti region.

The most well-known is the Macina Liberation Front, a jihadist movement active since early last year, mainly in central Mali.

 

Bandits, militias

But criminality and conflict over land and resources are also destabilizing the area. Locals say there is little government presence outside the major urban areas. And Peul traders, herders and village chiefs told VOA that bandits and ethnic militias, some branding themselves as jihadists, have been recruiting young men.

 

Mali 3

Some analysts believe local bandits could just be adopting extremist rhetoric to scare authorities.

The mayor of the nearby village of Kerena, Ibrahima Hamadoune Bary, called the situation catastrophic.

He says people no longer dare to leave the town to go their fields. At one point, he says we had at least one deadly attack a week. In some villages, he says food is becoming a problem because the population don’t have access to markets.

 

Mali 4

The situation is even more complicated now than it was a year ago when the Bamako government signed a peace agreement with separatist rebels and other northern armed groups, says Boukary Sangare, a researcher studying the Mopti region since 2008.
Marginalized youth

He says “today the state is absent in several parts of the region where former members of armed groups have moved in. I call these people neo-jihadists because they used to cooperate with the Islamists.”

Some of these groups are attracting Peul youth who say they feel marginalized.

The peace agreement, signed in Algiers one year ago, focused on the three northern regions of Mali — Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. The herders and farmers of the Mopti region were not represented.

 

Mali 5
Sangare says “because the state has been unable to address these issues some youth within the Peul community have felt it necessary to take up arms to defend themselves.”

Earlier this month, the National Alliance for the Safeguarding of the Peul Identity and the Restoration of Justice, known by its French acronym the ANSIPJ, announced itself as a military force. Its leader Omar al-Janah, a 27-year-old teacher, reportedly of Tuareg and Peul parents, claims to have 700 fighters at his disposal.

 


Claims of government abuses

In June, the U.N. Security Council voted to beef up the mandate and size of the U.N. peacekeeping force to Mali amid continued jihadist attacks in the north.

Sangare says central Mali should not be ignored.

 

 

Mali 6

“The center is the umbilical cord that binds the north and south together. If the Peul rise up, you risk losing the north and the center too,” Sangare says.

Residents of the Mopti region accuse the government of abuses and mass arrests, something that is feeding resentment.

This man says he was swept up by security forces with nine other men and detained for two months. He says when they arrested me I thought they would kill me. That’s what they do with Peul men because they think we support the jihadists.

He says he was beaten and starved. His family paid to get him released.

He says we had to sell some of our best cows. My mother doesn’t want me to go with the animals in the bush after what happened.

Peul activists and local leaders who spoke to VOA told similar stories of being arrested and their families having to pay for their release.

Kaman Kane, the governor of the Mopti region, justified the arrests, saying it was part of the strategy to suppress the violence in the region. (source:voanews)

 

Nigerian army denies illegal deduction of soldiers’ salaries

soldiers

The Nigerian Army has denied reports that the salaries of soldiers in 1 Mechanized Division, Kaduna, had been illegally deducted from.

The division described the report as false and unfounded.

This was contained in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Abdul Usman, a colonel, on Thursday.

The statement reads: “The attention of 1 Division Nigeria Army has been drawn to an online publication carried in Sahara Reporters over illegal deduction of their salaries.

“In the report, it was alleged that soldiers of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, have cried out that their monthly salaries are being deducted by 1 Division Finance Department without explanation which cut across all the ranks.

“We wish to debunk the entire allegation as contained in the publication and make some clarification on the issue.

“First and foremost, we would like to state that the Nigerian Army pay system is generated from the Finance Headquarters.

“This by implication implies that all information regarding Pay/Allowances is built up in the system and as such, the Division Finance can neither manipulate nor alter any data of a soldier captured in the pay roll.

“The Army has a robust system to address any problem with respect to soldiers’ concerns, including pay issues.

“It is our submission that the allegations are spurious without any iota of truth.

“More so, the allegations are made anonymous which is totally unusual in a military setting.

“Sahara Reporters is hereby strongly advised to always double check such allegations in the interest of justice and fairness,” he said.

 

 

ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report 

January – March 2016

Highlights

While President Buhari’s promises to defeat Boko Haram by the end of 2016 were not met and declarations of a “technical defeat” were made, Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram has seen improvements in the previous three months.  Military operations conducted by the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in coordination with elements from the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) have reclaimed areas in Borno once controlled by the militant group and have provided access to civilian populations that were previously isolated and unreachable.

However, the fight against Boko Haram and other violent extremist groups in the ECOWAS region is not over.  Boko Haram continue to attack places in Nigeria’s northeast and have recently increased their attacks in northern Cameroon.  Furthermore, improvement must be made in the way the MNJTF approaches its fight with Boko Haram.  The 8,700-strong force created by the MNJTF to help control Nigeria’s borders with neighbouring Cameroon and Niger have so far been ineffective.  And while the United States has recently created a drone base in Cameroon to assist in intelligence gathering, intelligence-sharing and access to quick and actionable intelligence is wanting. Factors including lack of adequate resources, poor coordination, political corruption and the inability of leaders to agree on a joint strategy have constantly plagued the MNJTF and hindered meaningful progress.

Follow the link to download the full report Quarterly Report Jan_Mar 2016

ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report
March 2016

Highlights

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates struck new grounds in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Niger. On a single day, AQIM and Boko Haram attacked separate targets in Niger. Since the attacks on the Radisson Blue Hotel in Bamako and the Splendid Hotel Ouagadougou, many countries in West Africa and the Sahel belt continue to increase military presence in public places to advert likely attacks. Unfortunately, this did not deter an attack on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, about 40km (25 miles) south of Abidjan.

Violent extremist attacks have continued on a near daily basis in volatile areas in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso. Amidst tight security, gunmen attacked a European Union Training Mission (EUTM) headquarters in Bamako, Mali during which one of the suspects was killed while two were arrested.[1] Three policemen were reportedly killed in Burkina Faso near the border with Mali by AQIM affiliates. Many border communities along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, Niger and Chad have been under constant pressure from Boko Haram attacks too often unhindered by military or police forces.

Follow the link to download the full  March 2016 Report

 

ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report 

February 2016

Introduction

Military onslaughts against jihadist across Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad intensified in February 2016. In countries of the ECOWAS, namely Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast, fears of attacks increased as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) intensifies effort to expand its operational scope beyond Mali and Burkina Faso.

The battle to rid the ECOWAS and Sahel of jihadist elements is far from over. While military operations continue to dominate government approaches to deal with the threats, reports of jihadist expansion into new countries have been abound. For instance, Senegal intercepted some of its citizens in Mauritania attempting to join Boko Haram and Nigeria officials arrested an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruiter. Occasional Boko Haram attacks persist in northern Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Mali despite constant military pressure from the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). While French forces continued its operations against AQIM, ambush attacks on Mali government forces, aid workers and UN mission peacekeepers persist.  Factors that contribute to the continued violence by extremists groups include a significant lack of government resources, poor coordination between countries, political corruption, and competing priorities among country leadership.

Follow the link to download the full CTSIP Report February 2016

 

ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report

January 2016

Introduction

Many were ushered into the New Year amidst disappointment, as government promises to defeat Boko Haram before the end of 2015 was not achieved. At his inauguration on May 29th 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “but we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.”[1] Unfortunately, none of these goals were accomplished. When it became obvious to government that wanton defeat of Boko Haram was not possible in the near term, daily news headlines were brandish with Buhari’s now infamous claims of “technical defeat.” In reality, displacement of Nigerians, especially in Borno and Yobe, and attacks by Boko Haram in Cameroon, Niger and Chad continued throughout January 2016.

[1] Inaugural speech by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari following his swearing-in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29th May, 2015

 

Follow the link to download the full CTSIP Report January 2016

 

ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report
September 2015

septemberreport
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Counter Terrorism Strategy (CTS) Tracker is one of the components a project by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)-West Africa with support from US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) through Partners for Democratic Change (PDC). This is the first edition of the report. When fully functional, the tracker is expected to be an online open source data platform for monitoring and documenting extremist activities within the ECOWAS Region and government’s response at member States, group and regional levels in accordance with the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy (CTS). The tracker report is released monthly; documenting trends, patterns, highlights and analysis of events, policies and effort of government at different levels to address threats to political stability and peace in the ECOWAS region. Beyond the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Coordination Unit which is supposed to be responsible for the strategy and implementation of the CTS, this report will educate members of the public within and beyond the ECOWAS region, on how the plan is being implemented.
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ECOWAS Security Incidence Tracker Report
October 2015

octoberreport
Extreme violence groups poses a serious threat to international peace, security and stability and constitutes a criminal act that undermines efforts aimed at achieving democracy, good governance and development, as well as the full enjoyment of the human and peoples’ rights. In West Africa, particularly within the ECOWAS bloc, the challenges posed by violence extreme groups are have further impoverished many and created humanitarian situation in affected countries. The spectrum of democratic and development gains of past decades reversal is on upward direction owing to chaos caused by these elements. Islamist extremists’ activities in recent years within the ECOWAS region have demonstrated the gravity of the threat they pose and the need for greater enforcement of existing counter-measures to prevent, respond and confront various acts, such as abductions and hostages-taking, hijacking, bomb attacks, etc, that ECOWAS member state experience.
For instance, as at 31st Saturday October 2015, some 2.4 million Malians are currently affected by conflict waged for decades by Tuareg separatists and in more recent years by Islamist jihadi groups.

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Principal Causes of Terrorism in West Africa.

In order to develop a common strategic approach to fight terrorism within the ECOWAS Community, it is important to have a common perception of the threats and vulnerabilities of the region to terrorism. Several geographical, environmental, political, economic and socio-cultural factors motivate individuals to commit terrorist acts or incite, support and harbor those who commit them. The interplay of these factors is of particular relevance to West Africa.

It is a region well endowed with natural resources, geo-strategically located, rich in cultural, religious and ethnic diversity; and which concurrently is one of the most impoverished regions with a history of violent conflicts, coups d’état and political instability, transnational organized crimes including human, drugs and arms trafficking, all of which have presented conditions conducive for terrorism in West Africa.
Extracted from ECOWAS CTS &I Plan
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Supplementary Act Adopting the ECOWAS STRATEGY for Combating Terrorism and it’s implementation plan.

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