July 2015- The enemy strikes back
In mid-July the Nigerian government replaced the entire defence and security command element, with a new NSA, CDS, COAS, CNS, CAS and CDI. Whilst Nigerian forces reorganised themselves the enemy launched an aggressive general offensive across and beyond the AO, launching strategic IED and small arms attacks in Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Gombe and Yobe States as well as their by now normal waves of attacks in Maiduguri. These were complemented by IED attacks in N’Djamena, Chad and Maroua in Cameroun.
Operationally the enemy’s attacks focussed on isolating friendly forces and punishing the civilian population, with attacks in Yobe, Adamawa, Borno as well as sustained attacks in Chad for the first time particularly in Lac Region as well as an increased rate of attacks in Extreme Nord Region, Cameroun and Diffa Region, Niger Republic.
For ease of analysis I have broken the enemies activities into 8 rough geographic and conceptual areas of operations:
- Nigeria/ Niger Republic border (Damasak-Bosso)
- Lake Chad
- Maiduguri, Konduga, Jere and Mafa LGA
- Sambisa Forest (Gujba, Damboa, Biu, Hawul, Dikwa, Bama and Kaga LGA)
- Mandara Mountains to Waza National Park (Askira Uba, Gwoza LGA-Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga Department)
- Strategic IED attacks in Nigeria (Plateau/Kano/ Kaduna/ Gombe/ Yobe)
- Strategic Attacks in Cameroun (Diamere Department)
- Strategic IED attacks in Chad (N’Djamena- Hadjer Lamis Regions).
Nigeria/ Niger Republic border (Damasak-Bosso)
On the 10th Chadian forces announced that they would withdraw from Damasak if Nigerian forces did not occupy the town by the 13th, the enemy decided to support this decision by attacking Damasak on the 12th losing 7 killed, they also attacked the prison in Diffa around 1.00am with small arms and PBIEDs killing 1 gendarme and losing 3 killed.
On the 13th Chadian and Nigerien forces withdrew to Diffa, Niger Republic as promised. Damasak was duly attacked the next day with 12 people killed and then Gamgara Village 7km southwest of Bosso in Niger Republic was attacked on the 15th with 16 people killed.
On the 16th Chadian and Nigerien forces began operations in the vicinity of Mallam Fatori and Damasak killing 32 and capturing 3. About a week later on the 24th Nigerian soldiers operating around Damasak killed 8 gunmen and destroyed several IEDs and booby trapped properties.
Western Shore (Abadam-Baga-Monguno) : On the 1st of July gunmen mounted in 7 cars and 9 motorcycles attacked Kukuwa, Kukuwa LGA around 7.00pm killing over 100 people.
On the 10th gunmen attacked Monguno LGA striking Manga District, Kalwa where 7 were killed and 1 wounded, the town burnt and food and livestock stolen and then Gwollam, Misala and Magaram killing 43 people. Kukuwa was attacked again on the 10th at 5.30pm with 3 soldiers and 7 civilians killed and parts of the town burnt.
The next day the abandoned village of Dankyali in Monguno LGA was burnt. On the 13th Monguno Town was attacked with 45 killed,.
On the 18th a truck heading to Baga was ambushed 4 km from its destination, in the vicinity of Garin Giwa, with 8 passengers murdered.
Eastern Shore (Lac Region, Chad): On the 4th gunmen attacked Merom Village, Mamdi Department, Lac Region killing 13 and burning the village, the next day Tiskra Village was attacked with 13 camel herders murdered.
On the 13th Tetewa Island, 80km north of N’Djamena was attacked with 5 children in a Koranic School killed. 4 days later Komguia was attacked with 2 Chadian soldiers and 19 enemy killed
On the 24th a series of attacks were launched against Chadian villages on Lake Chad islands. Midi Koutou Island, was attacked with a number of women and children were abducted, 1 Chadian soldier and 6 enemy killed and 15 enemy wounded. 30 people were abducted from Katikine Village in 4 speedboats, another group of gunmen in speedboats attacked Medi Village wounding 1 Chadian soldier for 13 killed. In Blarigi Village 3 people had their throats slit, and Fitine village was burnt down.
The Chadians retaliated on the 27th, launching a large scale operation on the Lake, intercepting gunmen in the vicinity of Baga Sola. On the same day in Nigeria, gunmen entered Doron Baga but were convinced to leave by locals, moving to nearby Dawashi Village instead. Bundaram, Fishdam and Kwatar Mali in Kukawa LGA were attacked, with 10 fishermen beheaded in the villages.
Southern Shore (Hile Alifa-Gamboru Ngala- Fotokol): On the 1st gunmen hijacked a rice truck on Tilde-Maltam Road, Logone et Chari Department, the driver and his assistant were later found dead.
In Bodo, Logone et Chari Department to the east of Gamboru Ngala and Fotokol, gunmen mounted in pick up trucks and motorcycles attacked BIR positions at 3.00am on the 7th losing 24 killed.
On the 10th 8 returnees to Gamboru Ngala were also murdered, 2 days later Gamboru Ngala was attacked with indirect rocket fire from Gamboru Ngala killing at least 5 people and wounding several others.
On the 19th Kamouna Village near Hile Alifa, Logone Et Chari Department was attacked with 23 killed, 11 wounded and 300 properties burnt. 2 days later Kaforam village 5km away was attacked.
Amsabour Village near Bodo was attacked on the 21st, 3 days later on the 24th 3 females wearing IED vests were detained in Fotokol as they crossed over from Nigeria.
On the 26th the Gendarmerie Post in Afade to the east of Fotokol was attacked around 11.00pm with 3 prisoners (including an enemy prisoner) killed, a soldier wounded, 4 motorcycles stolen and the building burnt, 4 soldiers and 3 policemen who were reported missing, were found the next day.
Maiduguri, Konduga, Jere and Mafa LGA
On 1st July Molai, Konduga LGA was attacked for the second time in 4 days, when a female PBIED detonated at the front of the Hospital around 11.00am killing one person and wounding 2, whilst a male on a bicycle detonated to the rear.
The next day a female PBIED attacked a mosque on the Konduga-Bama Road in Malari, Konduga LGA around 2.00pm killing 13 and wounding 7. Another female PBIED detonated amongst fruit sellers in Alau Village, Konduga LGA 25km away killing 3.
On the 3rd gunmen mounted in Toyota Hiluxes attacked Zabarmari Muna, Jere LGA and Koshebe Village, Mafa LGA around 4.30pm occupying and looting the villages. As civilians fled, 6 PBIEDs infiltrated amongst them detonating, killing 7 and wounding 9.
A counter attack by troops and vigilantes retook the villages destroying a VBIED and 2 Hiluxes at the cost of 2 soldiers killed.
On the 8th an IED being carried in a Keke Napep detonated near the Borno Express Motor Park, Maiduguri, around 7.00am killing the 2 occupants and wounding 3 bystanders.
On the same day a vehicle detonated in the vicinity of Molai killing 6 and wounding 2 occupants. 5 days later on the 13th a male PBIED detonated at a checkpoint in Njimtilo, 5km from Maiduguri at midday, killing himself and wounding one other. A few hours later gunmen attacked the town with small arms.
Maiduguri then had 2 weeks reprieve which ended on the 31st when a PBIED mounted in a Keke NAPEP detonating at a market entrance around 7.30am killing 6 and wounding 11.
Sambisa Forest (Askira Uba, Gujba, Damboa, Biu, Hawul, Dikwa, Bama and Kaga LGA): Gunmen mounted on horses and motorcycles attacked Debiro in Hawul and Biu LGA on 2nd July.
The next day Miringa was attacked at 3.30am, 11 men who had fled Gwargware IDP Camp were murdered and another 2 wounded, the same day gunmen attacked Bama but were repelled by troops and vigilantes. Mussa, Askira Uba LGA was also attacked on the 3rd by gunmen mounted in motorcycles and pickup trucks attacked around 1.00pm with small arms and IEDs killing 31 people, and then again the next day killing 9 and burning over 300 houses.
2 days later on the 6th Mussa was attacked again with 10 killed, however 3 attackers were killed and 3 rifles captured.
On the 7th a female PBIED detonated near a market on Gombe Road, Sabon Gari, Damboa, Damboa LGA around 10.30am killing 5 people, including 2 other suspected female PBIEDs.
On the 9th July, gunmen mounted in 11 Toyota Hiluxes and several motorcycles attacked Buni Yadi, Gujba LGA around 9.00pm with small arms, crew served weapons and IEDs killing 9 people and burning parts of the town, mechanised forces supported by aircraft retook the town the next day.
The next day gunmen attacked Ngamdu, Kaga LGA, the day after (the 11th) gunmen mounted in 3 Toyota Hiluxes mounted checkpoints on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road in the vicinity of Jakana (between Ngamdu and Benisheik), Kaga LGA, burning several vehicles and killing 11 people until troops mounted in 4 APCs defeated them. The Maiduguri-Damaturu Road was cut again on the afternoon of the 13th, in the vicinity of Mainok, Konduga LGA, which was then attacked around 5.30pm with 30 killed, 30 properties burnt and foodstuffs looted.
The road was cut again the next day in the vicinity of Warsala by gunmen mounted in 4 Toyota pickups, who murdered 20 people at their illegal checkpoint. Ngamdu was then attacked from Goniri to the south, with small arms, IEDs and petrol bombs until troops from Jakana defeated the enemy and pursued them back into the Sambisa Forest. On the 17th gunmen attacked Sabon Gari and Manjakwa, Hawul LGA south of Biu killing 10 wounding several others and looting food and burning the villages.
The Borno and Yobe State Police commands declared the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road closed on the 17th, 2 days later the military declared Damaturu-Biu Road clear of IEDs.
On the 20th Biu itself was attacked around 3.30am, with 2 young men beheaded, 8 wounded and the rest of the town burnt down. The next day a female PBIED detonated at a checkpoint wounding a female vigilante. On the other side of the Sambisa Forest, on the 22nd NAF Mi 35 attack helicopters interdicted and destroyed 3 vehicles in the vicinity of Bama. 2 days later elements of 7 Div supported by NAF Alphajets recaptured Dikwa, destroying 3 enemy strongpoints during the advance.
On the 22nd 3 Div and 7 Div announced that the Sabon Gari-Biu-Damboa Road cleared of IEDs and open for public use. The enemy not getting the message attacked Pompomari, 5km south of Biu that night around 9.00pm with 8 killed, 13 wounded and several houses burnt, the same day in the vicinity of Bara, Gulani LGA, Yobe State to the east of Biu, an NPF patrol defeated several gunmen as they prepared to attack the local market capturing a machine gun, rifle, IED and ammunition in the firefight.
On the 24th gunmen mounted on motorcycles attacked Kopa, Maikadire and Yaffa Villages, Madagali LGA, Adamawa State (west of Gulak and southeast of Mussa) at 9.00am killing 25 people, apparently in retaliation for local vigilantes handing suspected Boko Haram members to the police. That same day gunmen mounted in 2 pick up trucks and a motorcycle attacked Kwata Mai Tagrri and Yasa Villages near Lassa, Askira Uba LGA at 6.30am killing 18, burning 5 properties, stealing vehicles and foodstuff.
On the 27th gunmen mounted in 5 Toyota Hiluxes and several motorcycles attacked Dille, Askira Uba LGA (east of Mussa) around 2.00pm killing 31 and wounding 25, soldiers counter attacked killing 11 as they pursued them back into Sambisa Forest. 2 more villages in Askira Uba LGA were also attacked that night. That same day on the other side of the Sambisa Forest Buratai, Biu LGA was twice attacked first at 3.00am and then at 9.30pm but both times were repelled. Gunmen attacked Kukuwa Gari, Gujba LGA on the 28th and were ambushed by hunters as they left with 2 killed, gunmen attacked Yadin Kukuwa Tasha, Yunusari LGA killing 12, looting foodstuffs and burning houses. The enemy retaliated the next day with another attack on Kukuwa Gari around 10.00pm killing 10, wounding 3 and setting the village on fire but were repelled again by hunters who killed 5 enemy.
Mandara Mountains to Waza Forest (Gwoza LGA-Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga Department):
On the 8th Mbreche Village, Mayo Sava Department; on Route Nationale 1 (north of Mora and south of Limani), was attacked with 2 vigilantes killed and 3 wounded.
On the 14th gunmen attacked Zeleved, Mayo Tsanaga Department to the immediate east of Madagali. Camerounian forces ambushed several enemy gunmen in Mbreche, the next day gunmen attacked Limankara and Hambagtha, Gwoza LGA south of Gwoza killing people and stealing food and livestock, 5 days later enemy gunmen were again spotted in the vicinity of Pulka and Limankara.
On the 26th gunmen attacked Tchebe Tchebe, Zelevet, and Vreket in Mayo Tsanaga Department burning farmland and a church, beheading 3 people and looting the villages. To the east of Zelevet in Mayo Moskota/ Mozogo Arrondissement Dzama and Mogoda were attacked.
Strategic IED attacks in Nigeria (Plateau/Kano/ Kaduna/ Gombe/ Yobe): On the 5th a PBIED detonated in Shagalinku Restaurant on Bauchi Road, Jos, Plateau State killing 23 people Elsewhere in Jos, gunmen mounted a small arms and IED attack on the Izala, Yan Taya Mosque Dillimi Street, off Abuchi Road, killing 21 and wounding 47.
The next day a female PBIED prematurely detonated near Umar Bin Khatab Mosque, Kano, Kano State around 9.30pm killing only herself.
On the 7th an IED detonated at the Local Government Secretariat in Gogarawa, Sabon Gari LGA, Kaduna State around 10.00am, 3 men then attacked survivors with small arms killing 25 and wounding 32.
On the 16th 2 IEDs detonated in the Central Market, Gombe City, Gombe State killing 50 and wounding 70 around 5.30pm, the next day 2 female PBIEDs attacked Damaturu. The first detonated around 6.15am near an Eid Prayer Ground killing approximately 43 people, the secondary device detonated a few minutes later killing 7.
On 20th July a police VCP near Damaturu NNPC Mega Station detected a Highlander Jeep with 6 occupants, containing IEDs consisting of 81mm mortar bombs, the device activated killing 5 of the occupants and 3 policemen, a second jeep containing an IED consisting of 6 x 81mm mortar bombs and the occupants (a male disguised as a female) was arrested.
On the 24th a young female detonated at a market entrance in Damaturu around 9.30am killing 22 people and wounding 50.
Strategic Attacks in Cameroun (Diamere Department): On the 22nd 2 female PBIEDs attacked Maroua, Diamere Department capital of Extreme Nord Region. The first PBIED (a teenager) detonated at the entrance to the Central Market around 2.30pm killing 12, whilst the second in her mid 20’s detonated in the Hausa District killing 3. 32 people in total were wounded in the attacks prompting a cordon and search operation the next day by Camerounian forces.
On the 25th another female PBIED detonated in a nightclub in Pont Vert District, Maroua around 7.50pm killing 21 and wounding 85. That the same night in a series of attacks on the Maroua-Guirvidig Road, a police checkpoint in Balaza, 33km east of Maroua was overrun with 2 motorcycles and several weapons stolen, BIR (Camerounian Special Forces) in pursuit killed one attacker. 17km east of Balaza, Madaka was attacked with a policeman killed.
The next day Camerounian forces were ambushed on that same stretch of road between Diguir and Madaka, leaving one civilian killed and a soldier wounded.
Camerounian authorities imposed a curfew from 8.00pm to 6.00am and closed all mosques, koranic schools and ordered the removal of all child beggars the next day.
On the 30th Camerounian forces detained 3 males aged 15, 18 and 22 in 1st Arrondissement, Maroua with a bag of explosives (the 15 year old claimed to be from Bama, Nigeria the others, locals from Diamere Department), their handler Baba Goni escaped. The same day 2 suspected female PBIEDs were also detained in Maroua by BIR.
Strategic IED attacks in Chad (N’Djamena- Hadjer Lamis Regions): On the 2nd Chadian security forces following their earlier raids, raided a house in Guinebor, 1st Arrondissement, N’djamena, seizing an arms cache of 28 x AK47, 7 x boxes of 9mm rounds, 500 rounds of ammunition, RPG rounds, 7.62mm (AK) and 5.56mm ammunition, 1 x RPG tube, AKMs and fake Chadian and Camerounian ID cards.
On 7th July video propaganda from Daesh claimed the May N’djamena attacks.
4 days later on the 11th a male disguised as a woman in a burqa, detonated at the South Gate of the Central Market in N’Djamena around 8.30am killing 15 and wounding 74.
Daesh West Africa Province immediately claimed this attack on social media naming the attacker as Abdullah Abu Bakr.
On the same day 2 male PBIEDs on a motorcycle detonated in Djarmaya (near Chads only oil refinery) killing themselves and wounding a passer-by.
July was a critical month in which the enemy’s previous shaping ops developed into a general offensive in the North and East and a counter offensive in the south of the AO.
Whilst it is difficult to completely understand their concept of operations, one can hazard an approximation based on their activities.
In the Nigeria/ Niger Republic border area it can be considered that the enemy still retained the initiative. Whilst towns such as Bosso remained in allied hands, the countryside surrounding it was insecure and dominated by the enemy to the point that Chadian/ Nigerien forces a few kilometres away in Damasak or Mallam Fatori could not be sustained leading to a withdrawal. With Nigerian forces were fully committed in the rest of the AO and unable they were unable coordinate properly with the Chadians and Nigeriens or exploit their successes or presence.
It was in the Lake Chad area that the enemy demonstrated a clear intent to impose their will and retain dominance, the string of attacks early in the month on the western shore appeared aimed at isolating friendly units by depopulating surrounding villages. To the south of the Lake, the see saw battle to dominate the El Beid River crossings at Gamboru Ngala/ Fotokol, became part of the enemies campaign against Route Nationale 1, as attacks moved north from the Waza area up towards Maltam. This aided the enemy in resupplying and stretched Camerounian and Chadian forces, compelling them to focus on force protection and route clearance rather than offensive actions. These operations in the west and south allowed the enemy to launch a campaign on the Lake’s eastern shore by the mid to end of month, overrunning Chadian military posts and abducting civilians. The abductions, hijackings and aggressive raids in this area demonstrated not only the strength of enemy forces in the border/ Lake Chad area but their intention to hold onto it.
Maiduguri continued to suffer a campaign of IED attacks against mosques, markets, motor parks and hospitals in the city and in Konduga, Jere and Mafa LGAs, which served the strategic function of signalling the will and capability of the enemy and impotence of friendly forces and the operational function of forcing friendly forces to devote a large amount of combat power to patrols, check points and other defensive activities. Attacks generally came in 2-3 day bursts with multiples of attackers striking their targets to the north and south of the city.
To the south of the Maiduguri in the Sambisa Forest offensive operations appeared to halt as the enemy launched vicious counter attacks, northwest (towards Damaturu) north (towards Konduga and Maiduguri), southwest (towards Biu) and southeast (towards Hawul and Askira Uba)
The attacks to the northwest between Benisheik and Jakana successfully cut the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road, making it too dangerous for all but heavily armed or foolhardy travellers. To the south the Damaturu-Biu Road was declared cleared of IEDs but was cut by attacks mainly at its southern end around Biu. Friendly forces however scored some successes recapturing Dikwa (again), northeast of the forest, once more preventing the enemy from completely isolating Gamboru Ngala and northern Borno as well as relieving pressure to the north of Bama.
This was important as the enemy pressure both sides of the Mandara Mountains increased, with attacks in Gwoza LGA, Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga Departments.
This can be seen by the attacks and enemy presence, north and south of Gwoza town, in Pulka and Limankara respectively, whilst on the other side of mountains in Cameroun the campaign along the Route Nationale 1 highway continued, with a string of attacks from Zeleved opposite Madagali to Mbreche east of Kumshe.
The enemy radically expanded their strategic IED campaign to include not just Maiduguri and Damaturu but Jos, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna in Nigeria, Cameroun and Chad.
The choice of targets while varied were predictable, Jos as the capital of Plateau State, which has suffered repeated religious violence and has been cited as casus belli by Islamist groups is a favoured strategic target.
The targets were a restaurant popular with Borno indigenes and an Izala mosque, a sect much disliked by Boko Haram. Likewise Kano and Kaduna homes to, ancient conservative Emirates saw attacks on mosques and government offices respectively.
In Northern Cameroun a new front was opened in Diamere Department, the strikes in Maroua the state capital were shocking and unprecedented but followed the same patterns as elsewhere; targeting crowded public places such as bars and markets with multiples of PBIEDs. The interesting factor in this element of the strategic campaign were the attacks on security forces on the Maroua-Guirvidig Road, south of Waza National Park, an insurgent safe area. Opening this new sector risked drawing unwelcome attention to Waza National Park but also forced the already overstretched Camerounian forces to refocus combat power to securing the regional capital, leaving the enemy free to continue operations in Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga and Logone et Chari Departments, it could thus be assessed that these attacks were an operational (and strategic) diversion.
Attacks in Chad presented the most interesting examples, the attacks themselves followed predictable patterns however they were preceded by Chadian security force raids indicating effective Chadian intelligence, which possibly hastened the next round of attacks or prevented a more widespread campaign.
The former view is supported by the fact that the enemy claimed the May attacks immediately fter the Chadian raids but 2 months after the fact, whilst the subsequent attacks were claimed almost immediately. The enemies desire to get ahead of the news cycle is possibly indicative of the damage the Chadian raids and arrests had inflicted. Curiously the attacks near Chads Djrmaya refinery were not repeated nor heavily publicised.
The scale, scope and aggression of enemies attacks demonstrated that they had the resources and ability to not only hold on to their gains but attack, hold or contest territory across 4 countries and launch attacks in the major cities.
This onslaught had an obvious effect on Nigerian, Nigerien, Chadian and Camerounian forces, with the Nigerian offensive in Sambisa stalling, Chadian and Nigerien forces withdrawing back into Niger, Chadian and Camerounian forces battling to hold on to Lake Chad and Cameroun losing effective control of Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga Departments as well as dealing with a new front opening in Diamere Department.
Within this troubling period several other key things happened.
The national security infrastructure was overhauled, with all Service chiefs replaced, the new COAS Lt Gen Buratai renamed the operation Op Lafiya Dole (Peace by Force), the two Nigerian divisions engaged in the campaign (3 and 7 Divisions) unified operations under a Corps HQ called the Maiduguri Command and Control Centre (MCCC) and the operations in Lake Chad came under the soon to be operational MNJTF.
It was clear by the end of July that the enemy was on the offensive and had the initiative the key question was whether they could sustain it and whether friendly forces could whether the storm.