As combat operations in the North East Nigeria/ Lake Chad Basin Area of Operations (AO) continue expanding in scope and evolving in effect since the Valentine Offensive of February 2015 and the subsequent change in political and military leadership and military structures we will attempt to review activities conducted thus far in order to assess progress, analyse future trends or actions and specifically answer the question as to ‘Has Boko Haram been defeated and to what extent?’
Caveat: only information in the public domain, easily obtainable by internet or media searches has been used. Views, analysis and opinions are purely those of the author and do not in any way reflect those of the British or Nigerian or any other government or Armed Forces.
Methodology: using open source data from online newspapers, social media, press releases and blogs, incidents were plotted on a road map and compared against online maps, to create rudimentary IPBs and battle maps in order to understand the campaign from March to December 2015. Whilst generally imprecise I believe there is enough information to be gleaned to understand the general thrust and trend of the campaign.
March 2015- Objective Gwoza
In March Nigerian and allied forces had several distinct objectives, to protect Maiduguri from attack and secure from encirclement, isolate the battlespace in order to capture the enemies self declared caliphate in Gwoza.
We will look at each of these objectives in details.
ISOLATE: allied forces from Chad and Niger to the north and Chad and Chad and Cameroun to the north east of the AO, conducted a series of operations that disrupted the enemy and diverted their resources and attention.
In the North after enemy raids and IED attacks on Bosso in Niger Republic, Chadian and Nigerien mechanised forces supported by aircraft attacked Damasak, Abadam LGA and Malam Fatori, Mobbar LGA from Bosso. It would appear these operations were unsuccessful as the attack on Damasak was repeated 10 days later. The latter effort was more successful but as the enemy retreated they took over 500 civilian hostages and murdered over a 100 more.
Chadian Attack helicopters (AH) attacked enemy positions around Djaboullam on the Nigeria/ Niger Republic border provoking an enemy attack on Bosso the next day followed by an IDF attack on the town the day after. Chadian forces then attacked east to Gashegar, Mobbar LGA the enemy rapidly launched a counter attack into Diffa with small arms and IDF, until pushed back over the Komadougou River by Nigerien forces.
Chadian and Nigerien forces then attacked Talagam, Abadam LGA inflicting heavy casualties and losses but provoking another response the next day with an attack in the vicinity of Abadam which was defeated costing the enemy further casualties.
The enemy then attacked Bosso again with armoured vehicles and dismounts from Malam Fatori but were defeated by Chad/ Niger ground and air forces again with heavy casualties and losses.
Air strikes in and around Malam Fatori were followed by a ground assault the next day finally taking the town on 31st March which the enemy had abandoned.
To the North East as enemy forces raided villages in Logone et Chari Department, Extreme Nord Region, Cameroun and the Chadians and Camerounians redeployed from Fotokol and Gamboru Ngala to provide blocking forces for the Nigerian attack on Bama/ Gwoza.
The enemy rapidly responded to this vacuum, preparing to renter the battlespace with mounted patrols in and around Gamboru Ngala. They then mounted motorcycle raids against the town as well as into Cameroun from Sigal, Kala Balge LGA, culminating in a major vehicle mounted attack from the east with IEDS, AAA mounted pickups and small arms pushing through Fuyi, Kala Balge LGA and then into Gamboru Ngala. Camerounian troops responded with ground troops supported by artillery. Chadian troops launched an armoured raid into the town a few day later but withdrawing the next day.
Enemy raids on villages in Lac Region, Chad prompted Chadian forces to attack enemy positions in Lake Chad with ground and air forces by the end of the year
SECURE: the friendly objective appeared to be securing Damaturu from attack by securing the Damaturu- Biu Road and thus preventing Maiduguri from being encircled.
Nigerian forces captured Kukuwageri and Gujba, Gujba LGA, Yobe State on the 1st of March, provoking an instant response.
Enemy counter attacks began the next day with an unsuccessful PBIED attack on Gombi, Adamawa State to the south east and a successful small arms night attack on Shani, Borno State to the south, destroying the police post, burning the town and abducting locals. The enemy then raided Ngamdu on the Maiduguri-Potiskum Road between Damaturu and Benisheikh.
Nigerian forces attacked Buni Yadi and Buni Gari in Gujba LGA. The enemy responded with IED attacks on Benisheikh and a mounted attack with 8 pickups from Garkida on Gombi, Adamawa State which was defeated by 23 Brigade (Bde) with heavy enemy losses after a 4 hour firefight.
Clearance operations in the vicinity of Gujba Town captured 2 IED making facilities.
Enemy forces again raided Ngamdu on foot and horseback and then ambushed travellers along the Maiduguri – Damaturu Road murdering up to 12 innocent civilians.
Nigerian forces continued securing the Damaturu – Biu Road, clearing enemy positions on the flanks, such as Bara and Gulani in Gulani LGA to the west of the road near the Gombe State border. The gains were further consolidated with the clearance of Goniri (east of Gujba and south of Ngamdu) a few days later.
The enemy’s response came towards the end of the month with motorcycle and vehicle borne night time attacks on Buratai, Biu LGA and then Miringa the next day murdering over 50 people.
What appears to be a determined enemy offensive then began with several large scale mounted attacks westwards into Bauchi and Gombe, in the latter particularly in Nafada LGA. 10-20 vehicle convoys pushed as far west as Alkaleri and Bauchi LGA, reportedly in an attempt to attack Bauchi City.
These attacks were defeated by friendly ground and air forces and the enemy began withdrawing after 5 days of fighting
PROTECT: The enemy’s attacks on the Maiduguri and its surroundings began with a company sized attack with a VBIED, small arms and IEDs on Konduga, enemy fighters on foot used cows to mask their approach, the attack was defeated by ground and air forces with heavy enemy casualties.
As friendly force operations developed to the southwest and east, 4 enemy PBIEDs detonated in 3 markets in Maiduguri, the attacks were could have been worse as a vehicle heading to Maiduguri containing IEDs and a man and woman detonated at a checkpoint in Benisheikh the same day before the attacks. Benisheikh Market itself was attacked with an IED the next day and another device made safe in Maiduguri Electronics Market 2 days later, however 2 PBIEDs detonated elsewhere in the city.
2 more devices were discovered some days later in a Camp for Bama IDPs in Maiduguri and made safe. 3 PBIEDs were shot at a checkpoint in Ngamdu and another detonated in the town later that day killing only herself. The next day 3 more were shot at Garin Kuturu, Kaga LGA trying to board a vehicle to Maiduguri.
With the capture of the enemy IED making facility in Gujba Fertiliser Blending Plant on the 13th of March IED attacks from Kaga LGA to the east ceased 2 days later but restarted on the 22nd when 2 female PBIEDs mistakenly detonated in Auno, Konduga LGA, having travelled from Jakana, Damaturu by bus and thinking they had arrived in Maiduguri
CAPTURE: the enemy ‘caliphate’ of Gwoza.
This was achieved by a pincer movement that gradually isolated Gwoza to the north and south and blocking to the west.
Operations began to the north east when Chadian forces raided Dikwa, inflicting heavy casualties. Nigerian ground and air forces raided Bama the next day and began operating around Pulka, Gwoza LGA and pushed east from Maiduguri towards Dikwa, clearing Mafa and Marte LGA to the south west of Gamboru Ngala, further securing the Maiduguri -Dikwa Road, the local population was then evacuated to Maiduguri. The enemy correctly read friendly intentions as preparatory moves towards Gwoza and began reinforcing the town and launched a motorcycle borne attack on Njaba, Damboa LGA to the west of Gwoza.
Nigerian air strikes against enemy positions in Madagali were followed by the Chadians deploying from Gamboru Ngala to positions to the east of the Mandaras in Limani and Amchide forming a block behind Bama/ Banki whilst the Camerounians to raided Ndaba, Kala Balge LGA, with ground troops supported by artillery.
Nigerian forces advanced towards Bama from Dikwa, capturing Boboshe and Yale to the north of Bama. Enemy forces retreated, burning Bama as they fell back. Nigerian forces reportedly captured Bama on the 16th, having broken through IED belts and fought off local counter attacks with VBIEDs and PBSIEDs. As clearance operations continued around the town tuning up mass graves, the enemy launched a mounted counter attack with pickups mounted with AAA guns and HMG but were defeated by ground and air forces with heavy enemy casualties.
With the Bama-Dikwa axis secure, Nigerian forces captured Pulka, whilst the NAF continued interdiction patrols around Gwoza destroying a convoy of trucks and motorcycles along Damboa Road to the east.
The enemy reportedly began concentrating in the Mandara Mountains, executing the remaining males in Gwoza and keeping women and children as hostages.
The capture of Banki by Nigerian ground and air forces further encircled Gwoza, allowing Nigerian forces to attack Gwoza from Bama to the north and Madagali to the south supported by 4 x Attack Helicopters (AH) and 2 x Fighter Ground Attack (FGA).
The enemy was defeated retreating east towards the Mandara Mountains and Cameroun, where they were hemmed in by Chadian and Camerounian blocking forces.
Improved coordination between Nigerian forces and allied forces can be seen in this month.
The enemy responded robustly using IEDs liberally both offensively and defensively with repeated local counter attacks to prevent friendly forces from consolidating their gains without fierce fighting, however in the face of sustained pressure the enemy retreated. Under almost simultaneous assault in 4 different parts of the AO, the enemy appears to have struggled to mount a coordinated counter attack, contenting themselves with a vicious IED campaign was targeted at Maiduguri with multiple attacks against crowded places, from camps in Gujba/ Kaga LGA to the east of the city.
By the end of the month the enemy counter attacked towards Bauchi and Gombe State either in a continuation of an existing plan or as an attempt to draw forces away from Maiduguri and the battles to the south and east of the city.
It was curious that the enemy did not use these numerous and well equipped forces to counter attack and retake the Damaturu-Biu Road or push towards Gwoza, it could have been poor coordination or hubris on the part of the enemy
These attempts failed however and Nigerian and allied forces narrowly maintained the initiative.