Date Situation Friendly Forces Situation Enemy Forces
13 April 
  • Gunmen mounted in trucks, motorcycles and 2 military type vehicles attacked AMCHAKA near BAMA, BORNO State with small arms and IEDs killing 60 people, burning buildings and vandalising boreholes
  • Gunmen attacked NGOSHE Village, GWOZA LGA, BORNO State with small arms, IEDs, petrol bombs and RPGs around 10.00pm killing 30 and injuring an unspecified number, they also destroyed a GSM tower and several properties
  • Gunmen attacked KAIGAMARI Village, KONDUGA LGA killing 8 people and burning several properties
14 April 
  • A VBIED contained in a Volkswagen Golf Car was detonated in a Motor Park at NYANYA, a suburb of ABUJA killing 76 people, injuring over 136 destroying over 16 long body buses and 24 minibuses. President Goodluck JONATHAN visited the scene of the explosion and victims in hospital whilst the UK High Commissioner gave blood
  • The kidnappers of politician Stephen Madu MARAMA have demanded a N100m ransom
 15 April The National Assembly, THREE ARMS ZONE, ABUJA spontaneously evacuated around between 11.00am and 2.30pm after rumours of an explosive device planted there
  • Gunmen mounted in trucks and motorcycles attacked CHIBOK, BORNO State with small arms and IEDs killing 1 soldier and security guard after a prolonged firefight and abducting over 129 school girls from Government Girls Secondary School, CHIBOK as well as stealing food and petrol from the schools stores. The insurgents pretended to be soldiers sent to evacuate the school to get the girls to follow them. 4 girls escaped when one of the vehicles developed a fault.
  • Gunmen attacked NWUNKYO KURA and WUKARI Town, TARABA State, killing 8 and 7 people respectively
  • Gunmen attacked NWOKYO Village, WUKARI LGA, TARABA State at 7.00am with small arms killing 9 people and burning down several buildings including the cottage hospital.
  • Gunmen attacked SABON-KASUAWA Village, HAWUL LGA around 7.30pm killing a local traditional ruler and his guard.
16 April  
  • BORNO State Governor has pledged a N50m reward for any information about the abducted schoolgirls, 10 girls reportedly escaped from the enemy camp when asked to cook a meal
  • Defence HQ states they have freed 121 school girls abducted by insurgents in CHIBOK. 8 girls are still unaccounted for. 1 of the abductors has been allegedly captured. The conditions and manner of their freedom were not specified. Rescue operations continue with Civilian JTF and the military combing SAMBISA Forest supported by helicopters.
  • Gunmen killed 6 workers collecting sand from a river for building in the vicinity OBAGAJI, AGATU LGA, BENUE State
  • Gunmen attacked a convoy carrying Customs Officials along the BAUCHI-YOBE Road, DARAZO LGA, BAUCHI State killing 2 and burning their vehicles, an unknown number escaped some with injuries.
  • Gunmen attacked WALA Village, GWOZA LGA, BORNO State, at 7.00am with small arms killing 18 people and injuring an unknown number.
17 April President Goodluck JONATHAN summoned a meeting of the National Security Council in The Presidential Villa, ASO ROCK, ABUJA, with the Vice President Namadi SAMBO, Minister of Defence Lt Gen Aliyu GUSAU, National Security Advisor Col Sambo DASUKI, Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex BADEH, the Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, Director general of the State Security Services and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency
  • Gunmen attacked soldiers and policemen in MISAU, BAUCHI State, who repelled them without casualties.
  • 16 of the missing students from GGSS CHIBOK have been accounted for having fled to their parents home on the night of the attack
  • Gunmen reportedly attacked DALWA, BORNO State. Conflicting reports state there was either a deliberate military operation against the village or an attack by gunmen who had been chased out by vigilantes. DALWA is reputed to be a Boko Haram stronghold.
18 April 
  • Defence Headquarters retracts its claim of rescuing 121 girls stating all are still missing, blaming a faulty report from the field they did not bother to verify
  • 14 more students from GGSS CHIBOK, escaped their captors, 12 were found wandering in the bush by civilians who brought them to CHIBOK Town, whilst 2 were found by soldiers in the forest along the DAMBOA-BIU Road in the vicinity of DAMBOA Town. The State Commissioner of Education Musa Inua KUBO states that of the 129 students at the hostel, 14 escaped the first day, 16 ran home to their parents making a total of 44 students accounted for and 85 unaccounted for.
19 April The Principal of GGSS CHIBOK states she has registered 32 students who have escaped, giving a total of 48 students accounted for.
  • Boko Haram has released a video featuring Abubakar SHEKAU, claiming responsibility for the NYANYA bombing in a 28 minute video delivered to media houses
  • Insurgents mounted in motorcycles and 4WD vehicles attempted to attack CHIBOK but apparently changed their minds however local residents to fled to ASKIRA/ UBA and MAIDUGURI.



Table 4 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent Incidents  IED Vehicle IED Suicide IED Small Arms Small arms+IED Other wpns Theft Kidnapping
0 1 0 9 3 0 0 1



Of bombs…: the VBIED that was detonated in Nyanya Motor Park was long in the coming and marks a good example of the dictum that the enemy needs to be lucky once and friendly forces need to be lucky all the time.

There are several instructive things about the attack.

Location: Nyanya is not in Abuja, it is a satellite town. The target itself was not a hardened government or military installation but an extremely soft target. That is rather difficult to secure, although to be honest it is not hard to completely redesign all Motor Parks to prevent VBIEDs gaining access. In other words despite the words and bluster, the enemy has still not yet managed to circumvent Abuja’s security apparatus. The other thing that is interesting about Nyanya is that it is close to both Southern Kaduna and Nasarawa States, areas that have seen an upsurge in armed activities

Messaging: the claim of responsibility for this attack was almost instantaneous. One could even surmise that the video might have been made prior to the attack and then quickly mixed in with footage from the attack for release. However what is clear is that again Boko Haram’s messaging and media ops outperforms that of the authorities. In the week in which several Nigerian companies floated on the London Stock Exchange and Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, the prevailing headline was ‘Car bomb in Nigerian Capital’. I doubt this was Boko Haram’s intent but it is an unfortunate coincidence, however the speed of the response corresponds with the theory that Boko Haram’s spectacular bomb attacks are essentially fund raising or PR campaigns.

The use of Arabic possibly indicates that the target audience is in North Africa and the Middle East. There is still nothing in this video that can be interpreted as a negotiating position so one must conclude from the speed of the video release, the use of Arabic and the lack of an opening that  Boko Haram is still planning and resourcing for a long campaign.

The conclusion from this is that as much as force protection measures against obvious targets such as schools, motor parks etc are needed, a clever media counter offensive is required.

… and boarders: somebody, somewhere thought it would be a very good idea to reopen a girls  boarding school on the fringes of Sambisa Forest.

Inevitably it didn’t end well for the students, an indeterminate number have been abducted (apparently almost a week after the attack no one can produce an accurate list of abductees) and by making a fairly catastrophic statement without carrying out the most basic verifications, the Military authorities have completely undermined their credibility.

However there are several factors that favour the security forces

  • The enemy has ensconced themselves in Sambisa Forest Reserve. Despite the fact that it is vast, inhospitable terrain , it gives the security forces a finite area to target
  • Unconfirmed reports from returning searchers indicate they have been warned that the insurgents would kill them if they came closer, this demonstrates that not only is there a neutral civilian presence in the forests that can be exploited for information but also further narrows down the area in which the insurgents operate.
  • The enemy is mainly road bound, mounted in trucks, thus they will be based somewhere off the numerous tracks that snake through the forest.
  • Rainy season has started, thus the roads will be muddy, rivers will begin flowing restricting the enemies’ mobility.
  • The enemy has to transport, feed and guard alot of scared young girls. This reduces their mobility, resources, manpower and space.

There are also several factors which do not favour the security forces

  • Hunters, parents and vigilantes have entered the forest to carry out a search. This would indicate that the forest has not been sealed off by the security forces and entry and exit is still possible by foot, motorcycle and vehicle.
  • There has been no communication that we know of from the hostage takers. What their terms will be is unclear but if a ransom or terms are demanded and complied with, it will encourage further attacks.
  • The insurgents have a very strong hand. They could break up into a series of small groups and spread out increasing the number of assaults that must be carried out simultaneously for a successful rescue or they could concentrate in a reinforced camp with the girls as human shields and resist any attempted attack. They have good local knowledge and are familiar with the terrain. They have a very emotive set of hostages for which most people will be willing to negotiate.
  • They have mobility provided by their vehicles, motorcycles and feet, with good cover from view provided by the forest.

Hostage rescue is notoriously difficult for even the most sophisticated and experienced armed forces. A mass hostage rescue is even more dangerous.

Rescuing small numbers of hostages by special forces in relatively discrete, controlled environments has a patchy success rate.

Rescuing large numbers of hostages such as in the Westgate Mall, Nairobi or in Beslan, the Moscow Theatre or the Budyonnovsk Hospital in Russia were all extremely costly in terms of hostages lives. Even the Moscow Theatre Siege which in reality was a well planned and well executed operation resulted in the deaths of 130 hostages after the operation ended.

The most successful mass hostage rescue of recent times in comparable settings is Op. Barrass, the operation that freed a captured British patrol from the West Side Boys gunmen in a swampy Sierra Leonean jungle, that resulted in freeing 5 British soldiers, 1 Sierra Leonean soldier and 21 Sierra Leonean civilians for the cost of 1 hostage and 1 British soldier killed and 18 wounded.

However the level of complexity and specific skill sets that made this operation possible from Signals intelligence, specialist recce troops, specialist assault troops, hostage negotiators, specialist lift and attack helicopters and pilots, advanced signals and surveillance resources etc and just as importantly the planning and logistics capability to bring all these moving parts together are not easily available.

These are not skills that are developed overnight and most definitely should not be deployed ad hoc as the US experience with attempt to rescue the US hostages in Iran in 1979 shows.

There are very few military scenarios one can think of in such terrain with such a large number of hostages and such nihilistic and ruthless that can have a high probability of success. It is in the best interest of all sides to negotiate a release of the hostages.


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 Strategy, Stabilisation, Terrorism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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