OP RESTORE ORDER SITREP- Boko Harams Ramadan Offensive

Ramadan in Nigeria started on 9th July 2013. This Sitrep seeks to analyse insurgent operations within this period. It will be necessary to start the timeline a bit earlier than the official start of Ramadan in order to introduce what I believe were the insurgents Preliminary moves and friendly spoiling attacks. ‘Enemy forces ‘covers all armed groups/ insurgents (Boko Haram, bandits, ANSARU etc) unless the others are specifically mentioned. ‘Friendly forces’ are the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF)- Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Nigerian Army (NA), State Security Service (SSS) and paramilitary forces, ‘Other forces’ are Nigerian based anti Boko Haram forces i.e. vigilantes. ‘External Forces’ refers to non Nigerian state actors.

Abbreviations for organisations or areas will be used, KIA, WIA will be used for killed and wounded for brevity irrespective of the combatant status of the victims.

The Sitrep is broken down into a chronological Situation Report for each element with an analysis at the end. All the information is gleaned from open sources. Opinions, analysis and views are my own and are made on the basis of training, local knowledge and educated guesswork.

Situation Friendly Forces

26 June: Nigeria Army Special Forces launch coordinated assault in GWOZA HILLS, BORNO STATE. BH leader Sheikh Abubaker SHEKAU believed to be amongst insurgents in the area. 5 x friendly KIA in a series of contacts with the enemy including Maj. FAMBIYA 322 Artillery Regt.

29 June: Forces from the JTF raided ZABARMARI Ward in JERE Local Government Area (LGA), BORNO STATE. Acting on intel from local vigilantes nicknamed Civilian JTF (CJTF), the NSF reacted to attacks by insurgents, resulting in 10 x insurgent KIA

30 June: Forces from the JTF raided ZABARMARI Ward in response to previous days operation and discovered alleged BH members burying their dead from that operation, resulting in 40 x insurgent KIA, clearance ops continue

03 July: 3 x insurgents disguised as women KIA and 20 x insurgent disguised as women captured by the JTF (NPF, SSS and Army) attempting to attack Ibrahim Taiwo Police Station, Baga Road, MAIDUGURI. Reportedly dressed in Abaya and Hijab and all armed with AK 47s and RPGs

08 July: Minister of Special Duties Kabiru TURAKI states a ceasefire effective for 60 days has been agreed with Boko Haram deputy leader Mohammed Marwan

11 July: 1 x insurgent KIA and 1 x insurgent captured by Army and SSS on the Kalambaina Road, GIDAN DARE, SOKOTO STATE in a 6 hour op. Also Captured were 12 x IEDs, 6 x AK47s, 1 x pump action shotgun, 13 x magazines (type?), IED components including 56 x detonator cables, 32 x 9V batteries, 2 x 9mm pistols, 701 x 7.62mm ammunition, 13 x timers, 1 x axe, 56 x SIM cards, 3 x memory cards, 4 x handsets and N76, 685.00 . Also discovered were 5 x women (2 x pregnant) and 6 x children said to be the insurgents’ family

Elements of 1Bn, 1Bde Nigeria Army and the SSS in a joint op intercepted a petrol tanker in KEBBI STATE. Hidden in the fuel compartment were 3 x AK 47, 1 x RPG 2, 9 x AK 47 magazines, 3 x bombs (type?), 3 x RPG chargers, 790 x 7.62mm ammunition. 1 x suspect captured, 2 x escaped. Suspect alleges he was paid N500,000.00 to take the weapons to SOKOTO and his family threatened

16 July: elements of the JTF (3Bde NA and SSS) killed 3 x insurgents in ABUNABU Village, GURI LGA, JIGAWA STATE in a pre dawn raid. Also recovered were 4 x AK 47 rifles, 5 x magazine, 164 x 7.62mm ammunition.

Curfew in the BORNO STATE relaxed from 21.00-06.00 to 23.00 to 06.00 for Ramadan

Mobile phone services were partially restored in YOBE STATE. Globacom, Airtel and Etilasat remain off while MTN functions intermittently

Nigeria to withdraw her troops from Mali, leaving behind Staff officers, Level 2 Field Hospital, Signals Sqn and Tp of MOPOL

23 July:  Elements of 81 Division capture 42 suspected Boko Haram insurgents captured in an operation from 12 – 23July, in LAGOS and OGUN States.

27 July: Nigerian and Nigerien forces of the MNJTF capture several insurgents in an intelligence driven op at KARANGA, NIGER REPUBLIC. Described as a key leader and some of his followers they have been transferred to an unknown location in NIGERIA for interrogation

28 July: MNJTF deploys to BAGA in response to killings of CJTF in DAWASHI village. 12 x WIA treated by the MNJTF

31 July: BORNO STATE Deputy Governor requests more police be deployed to BAMA and 2 other LGAs

100 troops returned from AFISMA operations in MALI to redeploy to BORNO STATE

01 August: Senator Ahmed MAKARFI a member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty for Boko Haram states there is ‘no ceasefire deal’ with Boko Haram ‘merely an understanding’

02 August: NPF to provide 24 hour surveillance of all schools in JIGAWA STATE

04 August: Borno State Environmental Protection Board (BOSEPA) begins fumigation and clean up of previously Boko Haram occupied areas BUDUM, KOFA BIYU, SHEHURI, ABBAGANARAM, GWANGE and OLD JERE in MAIDUGURI

06 August: 24 hour curfew and house to house searches in 2 areas of POTISKUM by the NSF. Laments the lack of fencing around Police facilities

07 August: 24hour curfew in POTISKUM relaxed. Now from 22.00 to 06.00 in respect of Eid

Situation Enemy Forces

01 July: Suicide IED attack at MAIDUGURI Market, by female carrying the device on her back disguised as a baby

03 July: unknown number of casualties in combined small arms and IED attack on CJTF members engaged in stop and search ops around BAGA Market, JAJERI WARD, MAIDUGURI

06 July:  42 x civilians (at least 30 x children) killed, 4 x wounded in a small arms and IED attack on Government Secondary School, MAMUDO, YOBE STATE

13 July: in a video message to the press leader of Boko Haram Sheikh Abubaker SHEKAU denies responsibility for the YOBE school massacre but states he approves of it. Denies there is any truce with the FGN

28 July: NSF uncovers a network of underground tunnels and mouseholes connecting houses and bunkers in BULABULIN, MAIDUGURI which could house up to 100 people

29 July: at least 2 x IEDS were detonated in a bar and entertainment area of SABON GARI, KANO CITY, KANO STATE causing 24 x civilians killed and 20 x civilians wounded

30 July: 8 x civilians murdered by insurgents at the College of Education and KADAFUR CINEMA in WAKA, BIU LGA using knives. The victims were a lecturer, a family of three and four others

31 July: suspected Boko Haram on 4 x motorcycles stole 125kg of dynamite and hundreds of detonators  from Ric Rock Construction Site in BARA, GULANI LGA, YOBE STATE. 2 x civilian private security injured

03 August: Insurgents kill 22 x CJTF and wound 18 x BYVG in DAWASHI and MAINOK, BORNO STATE. Unknown number of non combatants allegedly killed as well

04 August: at 06.45 Boko Haram launched a Small arms and IED attack on MOPOL units based in BAMA, BAUCHI State. The attack was defeated with 17 x enemy killed, 7 x MOPOL killed and 3 x NA,   7 x MOPOL wounded and 3 x MOPOL MIA. 4 x Toyota Hilux, 3 x motorcycles, 10 x AK 47s, 2 x G3 rifles and 10 x 40mm bombs were captured.

At 10.00 Small arms attack on the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) at MALAM FATORI, ABADAM LGA, BAUCHI STATE with. The attack was defeated with 15 x enemy KIA and 2 x soldiers KIA

Alleged Boko Haram leader Mohammed MARWANA claims responsibility for SABON GARI bombings in a Hausa language audio message. States the attacks were to prove he is the real leader of Boko Haram and that he had deposed SHEKAU and was in talks with the Government

06 August: small arms and explosions in GAMBORU NGALA, BORNO State on the CAMEROUN border. 1 x civilian worker for the Nigerian Immigration Service KIA

Situation Other Forces

29 June: 3 x suspected BH were captured at Borno Express Motor Park in ZABARMARI by members of the CJTF, they were allegedly originally from BAMA and on their way to JIGAWA STATE to launch suicide attacks. Weapons were allegedly pre positioned. 1 prisoner died in custody

30 June: CJTF detained 2 x females attempting to smuggle weapons into the Monday Market in MAIDUGURI via the BULABULIN Entrance Gate, each woman had 1 x AK47, 1 x pistol and items believed to be IEDs under their dresses

03 July: IED detonated in JAJERI Ward of MAIDUGURI by suspected BH targeting CJTF, who were operating in the area. No reported casualties

16 July: 30 people alleged to be insurgents killed by the Borno Vigilance Youths Group (BYVG) in ZAGARDAJERI Village, JERE LGA. 1 x suspect captured with a Kalashnikov and N100, 000.00. The Village head was also allegedly detained with a rifle and large sum of money. The BYVG  were engaged by gunmen resulting in 1 x KIA and 1 x WIA. The JTF were called to come to the aid of the BYVG resulting in 30 deaths.

19 July: Businessman Alhaji Aliko DANGOTE pledges N1bn to BORNO (N500m), YOBE (N250m) and ADAMAWA (N250m) States

FGN aid to the 3 States is BORNO (N200m), YOBE (N150m) and ADAMAWA (N100m) as well as 650 truckloads of unspecified relief materials allegedly worth N1bn

20 July: 1 x NPF mistakenly killed by CJTF in the vicinity of Al-Amin Daggash Mosque, GRA, MAIDUGURI, 1 x child was also killed in the melee. The armed policeman was in mufti with NPF reflective vest and apparently fired warning shots while chasing a thief leading members of the public to believe he was an insurgent

21 July: 7 x suspected insurgents KIA and 6 x captured in BAMA, following a joint 2 hour search op by the JTF and BVYG in TANDARI ward. Eyewitnesses report the 7 were killed trying to escape the cordon

27 July: 20 x civilians KIA in DAWASHI and MAINOK Villages in BORNO State by insurgents following a CJTF clearance op.

04 August: 5 x civilians killed in BIU, BORNO STATE in fighting between rival pro government vigilante groups

Situation External Forces

09 July: UK proscribes Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation

05 August: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) states they are investigating whether Boko Harams actions constitute crimes against humanity.

Statistics

Table 1 Casualties 26 June-8 August

 

KIA

WIA

MIA/ Detained

NPF

8

7

5

NA

7

5

Total NSF

15

12

CJTF

31

19

Insurgents

110

7

75

Civilian

101

48

??

 

 

Table 2 Captured equipment 26 June- 8 August

Rifles

Pistol 9mm

7.62 Ammo

Vehicles

Motorcycles

RPGs

Shotgun

Cash

 

AK47

G3

36

2

4

1655

4

3

1

1

N176, 750.00

 

Insurgents Incidents

26 June- 8 August

IED

VBIED

SIED

SA

SA+IED

Other wpns

Theft

2

0

1

3

4

1

1

 

Analysis:

The Ramadan Offensive: Ramadan in Nigeria started on 9th of July and ended on the 8th of August. I do not know if Boko Haram planned a particular spate of attacks to coincide with the Ramadan period and evidence does not necessarily support that theory but it is clear the security forces believed there would be and acted to counter this in a variety of ways.

A cursory look at the rough data accumulated from this sitrep shows that the insurgents suffered the disproportionate amount of casualties in all encounters; this is to be expected with an asymmetric force contesting the battlespace with a fully mobilised and prepped COIN force. However the second highest number of victims are civilians which again is not unexpected with an insurgency fought amongst the people.

Friendly actions: the NSF has sought to prevent Boko Haram from regaining the initiative with a series of spoiling attacks in the kinetic realm and manoeuvres in the non kinetic realm.

Intercepting weapons and insurgents moving to Sokoto, launching attacks into the Gwoza Hills etc denied the enemy the chance to relax and initiate moves of their own, constant search ops and exploitation of intelligence has again kept the enemy on the back foot and prevented repeated ‘spectacular attacks’ except those in Kano and Bama.

Operations appear well planned and intelligence driven, the Artillery officer Major Fambiya killed in the Gwoza Hills was apparently from the local area and brought on board for his local knowledge.

Where the security forces appear to be on the back foot is in terms of inadequate force protection measures particularly for the police. It was lamented that most police stations are not fenced much less hardened leaving them extremely vulnerable to insurgent small arms and IED attacks.

A comprehensive programme to harden all police stations, forward operating bases and checkpoints is not just urgently needed but economically feasible. Modular solutions exist that allow police installations to be accessible to the public but protect against small arms and IED attacks.

This inadequate protection for the police is reflected in the increasing dependence on vigilantes who are doing what the police should be doing i.e. engaging with the populace and seeking out the enemy that is embedded amongst the people.

I will conclude that the actions of the security forces in this period have negated the enemies’ ability to cause mass casualty attacks at will and curtailed their capabilities forcing a change in tactics and procedures.

This is informed by the discovery of timers as well as SIM cards amongst the IED components and the reduction in road side IED attacks. Without GSM coverage to detonate IEDs you either have to light a fuse and make a getaway or set a timer and hope for the best. A very inefficient method of initiation. As yet the enemy has not perfected the art of victim operated IEDS but it is an evolution that will most likely come. Likewise the use of knives rather than small arms to attack innocent civilians and the drop in drive by assassinations or firearms in these types of attacks. The enemy is forced to use command operated IEDs (i.e. fused) which means the operators have to actually be in the vicinity of the attack increasing the risk of death or detection to the attackers.

What I would describe as a non kinetic method of disrupting the enemy could either be a very clever psyops operation or a fortunate by product of political blundering. The offer of a ceasefire has apparently caused a rupture in Boko Harams ranks. The material rewards on offer are unknown beyond the advertised US Government and Federal Government bounty’s but there must be a sizeable proportion of Boko Haram who are tired of fighting, disgusted at the wanton murders and demoralised by the lack of success. Whatever the source I would suggest that the ceasefire announcement and apparent confirmation at the very least caused either infighting or at least gridlock within Boko Haram as they tried to figure out who was talking to who and what about.

Enemy moves: the enemy has tried to maintain its hold on the Lake Chad area, and relieve pressure by launching attacks away from its core area of operations. Short of the Kano attacks and the senseless massacre of school children in Yobe it has failed to achieve any spectacular attacks. In addition to the NSF it is clear they identify the CJTF as a key threat to be eliminated. Although they have taken massive losses in men and materiel they still have the ability to dominate areas, launch attacks, assassinate and fight back. They are not defeated but they no longer have the ability in the short term to stage the type of mounted and dismounted mass attacks against entire population centres as before.

The most numerous types of attacks have been combined small arms and IED and the highest proportion of attacks around the Bama area. This feeds into the theory that this is their centre of gravity and more importantly the supply routes and local relationships (through indoctrination, coercion, forced and voluntary marriages etc) developed during the months of occupation are such that the enemy has the strength to still mount attacks in this area and disappear. The failure to develop any core nationalistic ideology to buttress the religious rhetoric has come home to roost with BH core appearing unable to sustain itself beyond the immediate Kanuri/ Borno heartland.

They are not defeated but the initiative for now lies firmly with friendly forces.

Who Watches the Watchmen?: the use of vigilantes is a positive move that comes with alot of negatives.

Positives:

  • the fact that local residents who will bear the brunt of attacks by both sides have stood up and picked a side are one of the clearest matrixes by which a COIN force can measure victory
  • Their local knowledge of personalities, language, customs, slang, dress and geography is invaluable.
  • They are a force multiplier. A single citizen with a phone or quick pair of legs acts as a cheap, mobile, easily resourced early warning system.
  • It restricts the enemies freedom of movement and means they have to factor the vigilantes into their plans, increase their security and evade their checks.

Negatives:

  • They are illegal
  • They are vulnerable to counter attacks and intimidation at all times
  • They have no formal legal command structure
  • They are untrained, ill equipped and undisciplined
  • They are not immune to using their position to settle personal vendettas
  • They are unaccountable.

The negatives of an unstructured vigilante group far outweigh the positives, all of which could be obtained by formalising the vigilantes as auxiliaries. It is a given fact that MEND evolved from political thugs used by South-South governors to rig elections. We are already seeing clashes between vigilante groups and arrests of opposition politicians. An unregulated, unidentifiable vigilante force has a limited shelf life until it becomes just another armed group advancing its own means through violence be they economic, political or cultural. The casualty rates from actions with these groups armed with unsophisticated weapons always appears to be higher than those of the armed forces actually engaged in combat, the highest number of insurgents killed in a single action by the Security Forces are around 20 people and this is when the enemy is attacking their positions yet when vigilantes go on ops figures of 20-30 enemy dead arise. Is an armed hardened insurgent force really sitting around waiting to get bludgeoned by farmers with machetes?

These vigilante’s need to be codified and deputised as auxiliaries to the police force, given an identifiable uniform, basic training, a command structure, pay or some other reward a code of conduct and legal limitations on their actions. This is in line with International Law of Armed Conflict and common sense.

The early genesis of Boko Haram saw them collecting stipends from local politicians. Al Qaeda evolved from US sponsored anti Soviet Mujahadeen. The Pakistani Taliban evolved from militants formed to fight Indians in Kashmir. In COIN rule of law is paramount.

There is no excuse to not recognise a potential problem and nip it in the bud

To Shekau or not Shekau: the question of whether Shekau is alive or in charge of Boko Haram is interesting not just for Shekaus’ family members and career advisors but for counter insurgents. Does Marwana actually represent the new face of Boko Haram, a rival faction, or just another set of thugs with guns and IEDs?

Who is Marwana? How much power or influence does he have and can he deliver a credible peace? The fact that he asserts the Kano bombings were carried out to show his capabilities betrays an insecurity and ruthlessness that is extremely troubling. One would postulate that one could show your capabilities by planting bombs in empty facilities and issuing warnings and/ or videoing the results. One could also argue that the murder of Muslim school children by insurgents who were then disavowed and condemned by Shekau and ignored by Marwana shows a severe lack of command and control by either.

Whether Marwana is genuinely a Boko Haram commander gone rogue or an opportunist, and Shekau has been shot, deposed or is still running the show is yet to be seen. However it further muddies the waters but does not change the operational imperatives. Kill or capture the key leaders, seize their weapons, disrupt the weapons and money supply, disrupt their freedom of movement. Whoever is left after this can negotiate the size of their prison cell.

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About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
This entry was posted in Counter insurgency, Nigeria Defence, Nigeria Strategy, Terrorism, Uncategorized, West Africa Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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