By May it would appear that the enemy had recovered from the Valentines offensive of February- March 2015 and the assault on Sambisa Forest in April. Having suffered several defeats the enemy responded in those early months with local counter attacks and IED attacks against strategic targets, mainly in Maiduguri, until the loss of several IED facilities in Gujba depleted this capability, reducing the strategic IED threat to the city. In April probes by armed groups to the south east of Maiduguri indicated the enemy was reforming in that area despite (or maybe because of) the pressure in the Sambisa Forest.
Nigerian forces continued clearing Sambisa Forest but were forced on the defensive everywhere else in the Area of Operations.
CLEAR: Nigerian forces continued operations in Sambisa Forest, clearing Nbita Village on the 1st of May losing 7 soldiers killed in the firefight and another 2 injured by an IED strike on their vehicle, 4 days later, camps in Rogo Fulani, Laraga and Alafa were cleared at the cost of 4 soldiers killed, capturing AAA guns, RPGs, vehicles and ammunition, 25 women and children were freed. 3 days later more camps were cleared and another 10 camps in the vicinity of Dure and Iza were reported destroyed on May 16th with armoured vehicles, AAA guns captured. Retreating enemy were ambushed in the vicinity of Bitta, whilst IEDs killed 1 and wounded 2 soldiers. On the 23rd Nigerian forces again returned to Alafa and Dure in Sambisa Forest conducting air and artillery supported clearance operations, destroying 6 camps and capturing 11 vehicles, including an armoured vehicle, 70 motorcycle and 15 tricycles and rescuing 20 hostages. Again IEDs caused most friendly casualties with 1 killed and 20 wounded. More hostages were freed 3 day later and taken to Maiduguri
Gamboru Ngala-Mafa –Marte Sector: following on from the unsuccessful attack on Mafa on 25th April, Nigerian forces destroyed an enemy camp in the vicinity of Mafa 3 weeks later on 12th May inflicting casualties and freeing hostages. Camerounian media reported a heavy concentration of fighters in Fima 7 km south of Fotokol and on the 17th Camerounian forces engaged groups of gunmen around Fotokol with support weapons and 105mm from their AFVs. 3 days later Marte was occupied by the enemy after the town was allegedly left undefended during the push into Sambisa Forest. 2 weeks later the enemy launched a vehicle mounted counter attack with small arms on Mafa inflicting 30 enemy casualties and capturing a machine gun, RPG, ammunition and destroying, 2 armoured vehicles and a Toyota Buffalo.
Potiskum-Fika- Ngalda Sector: A combined IED and small arms attack by PBIEDs against a College in Potiskum, Yobe State on the 8th led to up to 50 wounded, with 1 attacker blowing himself up and 2 others captured. 2 weeks later on the 16th a young female PBIED detonated at the Bayan Tasha Motor Park Market in Damaturu killing 9 and wounding 30 around 10.40am. On the 30th gunmen mounted in 2 vehicles and 5 motorcycles attacked Ngalda near the Gombe State border around 7.30pm with small arms and RPGs looting, foodstuffs, petrol and motorcycles, they then moved onto Fika, headquarters of Fika LGA around 9.00pm burning government buildings, schools, telecom masts, houses, vehicles and Police stations, a friendly attempt to repel the attackers from Potiskum failed and the enemy withdrew from Fika with no friendly or civilian casualties. Cordon and search operations in Gombe State led to the arrest of 3 suspected IED makers.
Damaturu – Biu Sector: along the Damaturu-Biu axis, enemy forces attacked Ngulde, Askira Uba LGA to the east of Biu on the 6th of May. Vigilantes returned the compliment that night in the Hiang Kukuriyi Forest in the vicinity of Hiang, Hawul LGA, west of Biu, ambushing a convoy of gunmen mounted on Toyota Hiluxes and motorcycles, heading west towards Gombe and Yobe. 3 days later Madthaw Village in Biu LGA was attacked. This sector remained relatively quiet until 29th May when 2 IEDs detonated at a wedding venue in Tashan Alade, Hawul LGA, east of Biu killing 7 and wounding 30
Maiduguri: on 13th May the enemy launched a large scale attack on Maiduguri, mounted on motorcycles and pick up trucks. Around 6.45pm, the attack was appears to have been launched from the Sambisa Forest southeast of the city with the first elements attacking Ba’ale, Jere LGA. A second element attacked Ladi Kayamla, Konduga LGA, pushing up via Cashew Plantation to infiltrate the southern district of Fori, using small arms, RPGs and IEDs. 3 female PBIEDs infiltrated fleeing civilians to detonate at a checkpoint killing 10 civilians and wounding 12 others. Fighting continued until the next morning despite a lull between 9.00pm and 9.30pm, until elements of 21 Armoured Bde defeated the enemy who retreated via Alau Dam to Sambisa Forest. Friendly casualties were reported as 4 soldiers and 3 vigilantes. 27 civilians were reported murdered at Alau during the enemy retreat their casualties were given as 35. 7 Div imposed a 24 hour curfew on the city, gradually relaxing it to 12.00pm to 5.00am the next day and then 7.00pm to 6.00am on the 18th. This did not deter the enemy from attacking Bale Galtimari and Bale Shuwari, Jere LGA, south west of the city the next day killing 28 people, burning property and stealing livestock. On the 15th Jere LGA was attacked again with an afternoon attack Molai.
2 weeks later Maiduguri’s peace was disturbed with a large vehicle and motorcycle attack from the direction of Molai to south west at 1.00am. The attack was preceded at midnight by up to 40 RPG rounds used as indirect fire on the south western Maiduguri districts of Dalal Lawanti, Saleke, Gomari, Ajilari and Bulunkutu killing 13 and wounding 19. Enemy forces reportedly concentrated in Sambisa Forest and then attacked up the Damboa Road via Molai but were defeated attempting to breach the defensive berm by friendly forces and artillery. Either exploiting the confusion to infiltrate or simply getting lucky a PBIED detonated in a mosque near the Monday Market in the city centre around 3.30pm that afternoon killing at least 26 and wounding 28. Another IED detonated in a market in Gamboru District in the Northwest of the city on killing 1 and wounding 5.
Diffa-Lake Chad Sector: Gunmen attacked Kokodou Village near Bosso, Diffa Region, Niger Republic on the 5th of May, killing 5 people as NGOs warned that over 25,000 people had been displaced by the fighting and the Nigerien evacuation of the Lake Chad islands. 2 days later Nigerien forces began clearance operations on the Lake islands. On the 20th Chads Parliament voted to indefinitely to extend their troops mandate in the joint operation and on the 24th gunmen attacked Choua Island north east of Bol on Lake Chad with small arms and RPGs losing 33 and killing 4 Chadians, the next day the Chadians conducted air strike on insurgent food, fuel and munitions dumps
Gwoza- Mayo Sava- Madagali Sector: in Adamawa State, 23 Bde patrols engaged the enemy in the vicinity of Chalawa Village killing, wounding and capturing an unknown number, capturing a machine gun, ammunition, several motorcycles and a bicycles and freeing 260 women and children abducted from Madagali. The NAF set up a FOB in MUBI for Attack helicopters (although type and number were not specified). To the east of Gwoza in Mayo Tsanaga Department, Extreme Nord Region, Cameroun an enemy ambush in Krawa Maffa on 2nd May killed 2 and wounded 2 Camerounian soldiers, followed by an attack on Tchebe Tchebe on 6th May, costing 6 civilians dead, 2 wounded, stolen livestock and burnt property, 3 days later Camerounian positions in Zelevet were attacked, with 2 dead on each side as well as a wounded civilian. That same day a Camerounian patrol was ambushed in Ashigashiya around 4.00pm leaving 1 soldier dead and another wounded. The enemy’s focus then moved back to Nigeria, to Madagali LGA south of Gwoza with an attack on Kojiti on the 13th killing 7 civilians. The next day Sabon Gari was attacked with 1 dead, 13 wounded and 6 women abducted and food looted and then Ajiya Wagga was attacked on the 24th with 12 killed. Enemy surged again in Mayo Sava Department with an evening highway robbery in the vicinity of Tchakamari, between Waza and Double, the driver was killed and his assistant abducted. As insecurity grew the NGO, MSF withdrew from Kolofata and IEDs were laid on the Kousseri-Kolofata Road, Camerounian forces arrested a suspected Boko Haram recruiter in Kouserri, conducting door to door searches arresting 73 suspects and recovering 1 x AK 47, 5 magazines and 8 motorcycles. Reports in the media and by the Regional Governor indicated that IEDs and cattle raids were on the increase.
Yola-Jimeta Sector: As the month ended the enemy presence was felt in the Adamawa State capital Yola and Jimeta District to its north as gunmen attacked and robbed markets and a bank manager.
Summary: by May 2015 the enemy had readjusted to battlefield realities and in classic Maoist guerilla style, applied the principles withdrawing when attacked, harrying when their opponents were halted and attacking where their opponents did not expect. Maintaining a strong presence in the Lake Chad area through raids, IEDs and ambushes along the Niger/ Nigeria/ Chad border securing the northern supply lines, they shifted focus back to their main target of Maiduguri with aggressive attacks in the south and centre of the AO.
It can be argued that Boko Haram sought to isolate Maiduguri to the east and west in order to create the conditions for an attack on the city to the south. This is demonstrated by the increase in attacks on the Potiskum-Fika-Ngalda axis and Damaturu –Biu axis to the west of the city threatening the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road, the Main Supply Route (MSR) to the east and rest of Nigeria. To the north east of the capital increased pressure on Mafa and recapture of Marte isolated Bama and Gamboru Ngala from Maiduguri and threatened the Maiduguri-Dikwa Road. Using their presence to the east of Gwoza Hills to resupply by raids, cattle rustling and abductions in Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga Departments in Cameroun the liberal use of IEDs on roads and ambushes discouraged interference by Camerounian forces. The evacuation of Lake Chad and raids on Chadian and Nigerien forces also gave Boko Haram a level of freedom in the important Lake Chad transit area.
These shaping operations gave Boko Haram the opportunity make their presence felt in and around Jimeta-Yola in Adamawa State and more importantly use their still considerable strength in the Sambisa Forest to attack Maiduguri. Whilst these attacks did not penetrate far into the city, they showed skill especially bypassing the aggressive 103 Bn in Konduga and tactical innovation in the use of RPGs as diversion/ fire support in the indirect fire role.
Although Nigerian forces were inflicting losses on the enemy in Sambisa Forest, as can be seen from the map, this was in essence still the break in battle to destroy the outpost camps camps on the eastern periphery of the forest leaving majority of the forest in enemy hands. The relentless nature of fighting in jungles, woods and forests (see the Hurtgen Forest or Vietnam for examples), meant that destroying camps or equipment did not equate to control and destroyed positions would simply be reoccupied despite the attrition of men material and hostages Boko Haram was suffering in this area.
Thus by the end of May 2015 Boko Harams widespread harassing attacks to the south, north, east and west of Maiduguri had fixed Nigerian forces. The Nigerian offensive into Sambisa consumed men and resources whilst the enemy could delay and attrite with IEDs and ambushes, creating the conditions for Boko Haram to take the initiative back from Nigerian forces.