Situation Friendly Forces:

9 March: Nigerian Forces are engaged in an ongoing operation to clear SAMBISA Forest

10 March: The Federal Government has applied to the Federal High Court, ABUJA to conduct a secret trial of Mohammed YUNUS, Musa UMAR and Salami ABDULLAHI who face an 8 count terrorism charge. Defence counsel opposed the application. Judgement is deferred till March 18th

11 March:

  • Minister of the Interior Abba MORO stated that a committee had been set up to explore the process of resuscitating air border patrols
  • Over 50,000 internally displaced people have moved to MAKURDI, BENUE State from the villages that have been attacked.  Senator Barnabas GEMADE has alleged that majority of the attackers are non Nigerian Fulani mercenaries
  • Nigerian forces in a combined arms operation using artillery, Mi-35 Attack Helicopters and ground forces destroyed several insurgent camps in the vicinity of LAKE CHAD. Defence HQ stated ‘scores’ of wounded insurgents were captured by the MNJTF around LAKE CHAD, while others were captured in the vicinity of DIKWA, CROSS KAUWA, KUKAWA and ALARGARMO. The prisoners are stated to be giving useful information about further enemy locations and have allegedly stated that they were starving due to the constant bombardment and several camps had to be abandoned due to friendly forces air attacks

12 March:

  • Reports indicate that Army HQ have deployed 81 and 213 Battalions to the North East with plans to introduce 101 Battalion into operations in the North East
  • The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in conjunction with local vigilantes killed 3 cross border bandits from NIGER Republic in BULATURA Village, YUSUFARI LGA, YOBE State after they stole 3 camels who had been attacking YUSUFARI, MACHINA and YUNUSARI LGA’s for over a year. An Ak47, N7,0101.00, the 3 camels and other valuables.
  • The Nigeria Army has cut GSM phone services to BORNO State

13 March: Nigerian security forces isolated MPAPE, a suburb of ABUJA the FCT conducting VCP’s searching all vehicles in and out of the area. Although officials stated the operation was routine there are allegedly reports of a threat on entrance and exit points of ABUJA

14 March:

  • The Department for State Security, Travel and Airlines Control Point, Port Harcourt International has issued a warning to airliners flying between ABUJA and LAGOS stating that Boko Haram had acquired a long range anti aircraft weapon with the intention of attacking a civilian aircraft, they also warned that there was a threat of hijacking while passengers are boarding, hijacking in order to strike a building, smuggling bomb components onto an aircraft, moving the AA weapon in parts to a different location for an attack. They also stated that a container with at least 3,000 items of Nigerian Army style uniform had been confiscated in BENIN Republic in January on its way to NIGERIA.
  • BORNO State Government has imposed a 24hour curfew on MAIDUGURI effective as of 2.00pm
  • Emmanuel Sadi RENE CAMEROUN Interior Minister and Special envoy of the Camerounian President met President JONATHAN assuring him that CAMEROUN was fully committed to cooperating fully with NIGERIA to combat all forms of terrorism and cross border criminality.
  • Elements of the Multinational Joint Task Force destroyed several insurgent camps in the vicinity of LAKE CHAD in a night raid, capturing a significant amount of weapons and large sums of money of various currencies and denominations. Other operations destroyed enemy camps in the vicinity of DUGURI, POLKIME, MALAFATORI and other locations. 7 insurgents were captured, 1 soldier killed and 5 wounded

15 March:

  • Follow up operations in the area of KAYAMLA and ALO DAM, MAIDUGURI have resulted in the killing and capturing of an unspecified number of insurgents according to Defence HQ
  • Students are reported to be fleeing UNIMAID for MAIDUGURI Town due to fear of an attack by insurgents
  • BORNO State Governor has set up a Special Emergency Relief Committee headed by the Deputy Governorto set up a resettlement camp for IDPs from the attack on GIWA BARRACKS and villagers who have fled attacks in the hinterland

16 March: the KANO State Director for State Security Services Bassey ETANG has warned people in KANO to be extremely vigilant as there was a threat of infiltration and to be aware of things that are out of place, unknown vehicles etc

Situation Enemy Forces:

8 March: gunmen attacked FOTA Village, LALA District, GOMBI LGA, ADAMAWA State, with small arms and IEDs, mounted on Toyota Hiluxs and motorcycles at 9.00pm destroying a police station, court, primary school and 3 churches, killing 3 villagers and 7 policemen. One of the attackers was wounded. The insurgents then allegedly moved to BISIR where they attacked a wedding party, killing 1 and wounding 8 people

9 March: gunmen attacked a refugee camp in DAUDU killing 28 people. Local sources report soldiers mounted in 10 trucks attacked the town of JATO-AKA, KWANDE LGA, BENUE State killing 36 people

10 March: Unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani mercenaries attacked 64 villages along the DAUDU- GBAJIMBA Road, GUMA LGA, BENUE State killing 37 people

11 March:

  • Gunmen suspected to be Fulani mercenaries attacked Governor Gabriel SUSWAM’s convoy at TSE-KENYI Village, GUMA LGA, BENUE State. Police and Civil Defence escorts engaged in an hour long firefight to enable the Governors delegation to escape. The Governors had been on a tour of villages attacked by the bandits including DAUDU, UKPAN and GBAJIMBA escorted by soldiers from 72 Battalion up till UKPAN
  • Unknown gunmen believed to be Fulani mercenaries attacked UIKPAM-MBABAI ADAMAWA State beheading 30 people and burning and looting property

12 March:

  • Approximately 30 suspected Fulani mercenaries mounted on motorcycles attacked several villages in FASKARI SABUWA LGA, KATSINA State, killing 103 people in a 2 day attack. 40 were killed in MARABAR MAIGORA, 27 in MAIGORA, 21 in SABON LAYIN GALADIMA and 8 in UNGUWAR DOKA, the attackers also burnt houses but didn’t steal any anything. 2 policemen were killed and 5 vehicles destroyed. The attackers allegedly wore military style uniforms. Villagers have sought refuge in FUNTUA, KATSINA State and BIRNIN GWARI, KADUNA State. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ordered the armed forces to clear RUGU Forest (which borders KATSINA, ZAMFARA, NIGER and KADUNA State and NIGER Republic) and directed NEMA to provide relief to affected areas
  • 25 people have been killed in farmland between the villages of ANYIEBE and ADZEGE, LOGO LGA, BENUE State by unknown gunmen who ambushed them around 5.00am as they returned to ANYIEBE and TSE ZUNGWE Villages after earlier attacks to pick up items of property
  • Insurgents mounted in Toyota Hilux attacked PULKA, GWOZA LGA, BORNO State with small arms, killing 11 civilians and wounding 3 and burning a Catholic Church. Locals state that insurgents are using the area to escape from the offensive in SAMBISA Forest

13 March:

  • Gunmen mounted in Toyota Hilux vehicles attacked BUNI YADIN, GUJBA LGA, YOBE State, murdering 3 people including two Islamic Scholars and stealing 2 buses filled with foodstuff. The attack lasted over an hour
  • Gunmen attacked MARABAR KINDO Village, KATSINA State, killing 7 people who were burying victims of the earlier attack on Tuesday and burning down several huts

14 March:

Insurgents mounted in vehicles and motorcycles and on foot attacked 21 Armoured Brigade, GIWA BARRACKS, MAIDUGURI with small arms, heavy support weapons, RPGs and IEDs, in an apparent attempt to free prisoners in an operation starting at around 6.30am. An element of the enemy forces formed up at DOLORI Housing estate arriving on motorcycles and then infiltrated from the South East on foot. A convoy of approximately 20 vehicles and motorcycles infiltrated from east/south east through FORI District bypassing NEW GRA, University of MAIDUGURI (UNIMAID), 202 and 303 Housing Estates over the NGADDA River. Enemy action was initiated by 2 IEDs reportedly detonated by NGADDA River killing several civilians and destroying property.

Enemy forces succeeded in getting to the detention facility (allegedly due to a malfunctioning Shilka ZSU 23-4 Armoured AAA vehicle that was being used for base defence), burning it and the MRS medical facility down as well as freeing most of the prisoners. Friendly forces reacted quickly reportedly moving troops mounted in patrol vehicles to WADIYA, FORI and GALTIMARI Villages cutting off the enemy who were then fixed by the ground forces and neutralised by 2 Alphajets rapidly deployed from YOLA as they tried to withdraw back across the NGADDA River.

53 insurgents were reportedly killed in the vicinity of GIWA BARRACKS. Friendly forces also captured several vehicles including a technical and truck from the insurgents.

Enemy forces attempted to withdraw through NEW GRA, UNIMAID, FORI, 202 and 303 Housing Estates causing significant damage and civilian casualties, while being harassed from the air. The Civilian JTF (CJTF) Vigilantes reportedly killed 297 captured over 60 escaped prisoners and Boko Haram stragglers. In JIDARI POLO 9 suspected insurgents were detained and unfortunately died in custody, 4 were detained in FORI and handed over to the authorities, approximately 21 detained at 303 HOUSING ESTATE, 19 at MAIDUGURI Water Treatment Plant, 100 in BOLORI Ward and 19 at the NGADDA River. Detainees were reported to be foreigners who did not understand Hausa or English (or pretended not to). Captives have been alleged to include Malians, Chadians, Nigeriens and Libyans.

Sustained fighting died down between 9.15 and 9.45am however isolated gunfire and explosions continued till about midday, significant civilian casualties were incurred in FORI, one female student was reportedly killed and 3 others wounded by stray bullets and RPGs in UNIMAID, 6 civilians in the barracks were killed but total friendly casualties are currently unknown although Defence HQ stated 4 soldiers were wounded. CJTF members reported killing and capturing insurgents in JIDARI POLO and SULIMANTI. In the afternoon further enemy forces were engaged while they were hiding in a plantation near GIWA BARRACK, casualty figures from this contact are unknown.

15 March:

  • Suspected Fulani herdsmen/      mercenaries attacked ME-SANKWAI and UNGWAN GATAH Villages, MORO’A      Chiefdom, KAURA LGA, southern KADUNA State between 10 and 11.00pm with      small arms and bladed weapons and murdered over 100 people in the 3-5 hour      attack. An unknown number were also kidnapped. The military reportedly      arrived at 4.00am and secured the community
  • Insurgents allegedly regrouped      at ALAU on the outskirts of MAIDUGURI and returned to attack GIWA BARRACKS,      MAIDUGURI but were defeated losing 12 enemy dead before getting there.      Some of the attacker’s corpses have been described as ‘Arabian’ looking
  • BORNO State Government has      amended the curfew to run from 9.00pm to 6.00am

Situation External Forces:

10 March:  ex Seleka General Mohamed Moussa DHAFFANE has denied any links between Seleka and Boko Haram

11 March: UNHCR reports that armed attacks and abductions of women and children has been ongoing in the LAKE CHAD area since mid February, with 2,000 people crossing into DIFFA Prefecture, NIGER Republic in the past 4 weeks

12 March: UNHCR states that 17,000 Nigerians have become refugees in CAMEROUN, CHAD and NIGER another 40,000 foreign nationals normally resident in NIGERIA have also fled and there were 500,000 internally displaced as a result of the conflict in the North East.

13 March: 2 men on a motorcycle attacked a market in KOUSSERI, EXTREME NORD Region CAMEROUN killing at least one soldier. Authorities blame Boko Haram for the attack


Table 1 Casualties

  Killed Wounded Missing/   Detained








Total NSF



















Civilian 382




Table 4 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent   Incidents


IED Vehicle IED Suicide IED Small Arms Small arms+IED Other wpns Theft Kidnapping











The curse of Sokugo: as a youngster in an excellent Federal Government College we were taught about the different tribes of Nigeria, including the Fulani. My knowledge of this tribe revolves around Cyprian Ekwensi’s ‘Burning Grass’ and lessons on Usman Dan Fodio. The former is an excellent book about a Fulani patriarch who is bewitched with a charm known as sokugo which gives him the ‘wandering disease’ causing him to wander around Northern Nigeria, getting into fights, falling in love, meeting estranged family members and plotting revenge against his archenemy (it is a brilliant book). Usman Dan Fodio was taught to us as a hero of pre colonial Nigeria, one of his quotes graces the banner of one of Nigeria’s better newspapers. His works and writings on Islamic government, female education, tolerance, Islamic law, science and many other topics were highly enlightened, however what he is most well known for is leading the jihad that brought about the Sokoto Caliphate. Like most of history; one mans hero is another man’s villain; the Sokoto Caliphate was built by a combination of alliances and combat but maintained and expanded through the subjugation and enslavement of the peoples of the Middle Belt of Nigeria and the Adamawa Plateau traversing both Nigeria and Cameroun. This history of subjugation and slave raids persists till today and forms an underlying narrative in the constant settler/ indigene, nomad/ farmer conflicts. The complicated network of vassal, allied, free and allied tribes, kingdoms and peoples in the North and Middle Belt is fascinating but what it means is that today there are scores that still remain unsettled from the 18th or 19th century.

Before one goes further let us be clear that ‘Fulani’ can a generic term for a national/ ethnic grouping that encompasses not just ethnic Fulani but cultural Fulani, who could be of different tribes, much like you can have Levantine, African or European Jews, you can have Hausa, Wolof or Kanuri Fulani thus the phrase Fulani, can refer to people from anywhere between Sudan and Senegal.

This year we have seen a terrifying upsurge in attacks by ‘Fulani mercenaries’ in a belt from Southern Kaduna to Katsina to Benue and it has been finally publicly admitted by Senator Gemade that these Fulani’s attacking the middle belt are non Nigerians.

There attacks have been persistent, ruthless and without apparent motive, focussed less on robbery and more on the wholesale killing of peoples and destruction of properties and farmland.

One can look at the current dynamics in the Sahel/ Central African region from conflict in CAR to the famine/ desertification in Chad and Niger, the upsurge of fighting in Darfur, South Sudan etc to understand that there is currently a mass migration of people- some refugees, some nomads but also some rebel groups who are either on the losing side or have found their previous safe havens untenable. In essence a huge pool of manpower, most of which is armed, desperate and has no other memory of life or livelihood beyond war and banditry is on the loose.

These men were variously in rebel or ethnic militias, highway robbers, (the infamous coupeurs de routes or Zaraguina), poachers, smugglers etc. Some congregated for a while in Southern Chad, Northern Cameroun and then CAR as part of Seleka. It would be very interesting to know who (if anyone) is actually keeping track of them. A cursory review of the tactics of Seleka, coupeurs de routes /Zaraguina indicates a remarkable similarity with those of Boko Haram 2013/14- attacks on villages, illegal checkpoints, scorched earth tactics against rebellious villages, illegal taxation, abductions for servitude, abductions for ransom and forced conscriptions. The use of technical’s is again a hall mark of Chadian groups many of whom formed Seleka.

But the recent attacks in this belt have not been banditry or robbery it has been murder, destruction, arson, abduction and more murder.

This is not land dispute, electoral violence, settler/ indigene, farmer/ nomad, this is ethnic cleansing.

The question is why?

Battle of Giwa Barracks: Boko Harams reign of audacity hit a slight speed bump with this attack.

The positives of this incident are obviously reflected in the reaction of both the ground and air forces in not only fighting off the attackers but pursuing them. The immediate reaction of Defence HQ, not only with press statements and photographs a welcome improvement, backed up by user provided footage. The unfortunate collateral damage to innocent peaceful civilians is regrettable and tragic.

But of course the standout of this incident is the courage of the youths of the CJTF who with their sticks, stones and machetes rounded up escaping prisoners and stragglers, in the middle of a firefight.

So what does this incident tell us?

Capability: Boko Haram still has the men, arms, vehicles and equipment to fight. They are still in a position to throw them into a battle with high probability of losing them without being too worried about it. Either that or the operations in the Sambisa Forest have led to a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality. An interesting side note that the captured technical’s had the same ‘mud’ type camouflage seen in the latest Shekau video.

Pressure: Boko Haram is under pressure, the villages on the rat runs from Sambisa and Gwoza report the increased presence of Boko Haram. One would have presumed these escape routes would have been blocked, just like squeezing a bag, guerrilla forces will find the path of least resistance, one should be on guard for increased Boko Haram activity in Cameroun and Niger.

Tenacity: despite the defeat and significant casualties suffered in their previous attack, the enemy still attempted another attack the following day. Either Boko Haram has the most dedicated and disciplined fighters in West Africa who will not stop until they achieve their objective or maybe disorientated insurgents who couldn’t find their way out blundered into friendly forces and got into a fight. Or there is something very important to them in that barracks, which brings us to our next point.

Foreigners: the presence of non Nigerians in Boko Haram has been evident for a while but not widely discussed. It would be impossible for Boko Haram to sustain their operations with just volunteers or forced conscripts with the losses they have endured, thus it is fair to say that many Boko Haram foot soldiers are non Nigerian mercenaries, which possibly informs the number who lacking the local guides or knowledge to escape in Maiduguri’s backtreets they got trapped by the CJTF.

Command and control: this attack not planned overnight; someone had to recce the routes, formulate a plan and organise men and materiel for it. The enemy thus appears to retain a strong command and control system and is able to plan, organise and lead fairly complex attacks at will.

The use of ground to approach the target showed good tactics, as did the use of IEDs as a distraction to possibly draw troops away from the barracks, the ability to coordinate and control disparate forces for such an attack is again a sign of strong command leadership. The most interesting thing is that BH has maintained its communications throughout the State of Emergency despite GSM blackouts, constant attacks and so on. Thus they have a communication network that is still yet to be uncovered it could be electronic ( radios and satphones etc) or it could be simple old fashioned runners and messengers.

Reserves: I’m not sure Boko Haram has any willing volunteers lining up to join in Nigeria anymore. Forced conscripts can fill out ranks and fire a weapon and by being forced to take part in atrocities bound to the group but they are limited in their usefulness and will escape as soon as they can. As alluded to above Boko Haram seems to be buying expertise and manpower from other groups in the Sahelian underworld. I would guess these groups are being paid in a mixture of cash and loot. This is a positive indicator, for it gives one a powerful tool by which to separate Boko Haram from its foot soldiers. The downside is that these bandit groups are likely to move onto easier pickings as events in the middle Belt would indicate. Attacking the prison would not only have freed high value prisoners but skilled, trained and indoctrinated foot soldiers. Again there are not enough indicators to tell if this is brazenness or desperation.

Finances: Mercenaries cost money as does food, fuel, medical supplies, arms and ammunition. Smugglers ply their trade all over Nigeria quite brazenly with uniformed personnel seen escorting trucks and barges of fuel and other goods. The lesser players use the bush paths again paying off local authorities, the lower level smugglers use isolated paths inaccessible to the authorities carrying smaller and smaller quantities. In as much as these smugglers pay tax in the form of bribes to authorities on both sides of the border they also pay protection to local insurgent groups. These groups either give safe passage or provide protection.  The most powerful group in northern Nigeria/Northern Cameroun is Boko Haram. I will happily contend that a fairly ruthless anti smuggling operation (particularly fuel), would seriously deplete Boko Harams finances and ability to operate. The same applies to a lesser extent to narcotics smuggling, as this is mostly a transiting commodity the effects are more difficult to quantify.

Conclusion: I’m not going to get Churchillian and state ‘this is the end of the beginning’. It patently is not, Boko Haram just had a bad day.

What this incident shows is that the lessons learnt by the Nigerian forces, the infusion of fresh battalions into the fight and taking it to the enemy has had an effect on outcomes at the sub unit and tactical level. Operationally for the divisional Area of Operations at large, things are wincing into place. Unfortunately at the strategic level the joined up basic policing, administration, border security, military, diplomatic and social services needed to make this effort workable is yet to begin. In other words, the beginning is still beginning.


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, Defence, Nigeria Defence, Stabilisation, Terrorism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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