Boko Haram: The Mali, African Sahel Connection (Part one) By Maigida Johnson
Until recently, the Nigerian government and its top security chiefs refused to agree that Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or Boko Haram, had external backings and was linked to foreign Islamic terror groups like Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Now they see the connection many of us had always known exist. We live in a globalized world where seemingly random and isolated occurrences actually have A very profound nexus. The government’s failure to identify Boko Haram’s link to foreign terrorist groups early on, meant it’s approach to tackling the insurgency was shallow and narrow akin to medicating a cancer with paracetamol. The result of this incompetence is the dozens of lives lost in the weekly church blasts in the north of the country.
Exile to Northern Mali
In recent weeks, the military’s scorched earth approach to the Boko Haram insurgency has produced some results. Dozens of sect members have been killed and hundreds, including some senior commanders, arrested. As a result of the military’s offensive in August and September, scores of top Boko Haram commanders have escaped to northern Mali and Somalia where they have a safe haven to join up with Islamists there whom they have had a close alliances with. Just a handful of mid-level sect members are left to try and keep up the pressure on the military until their top commanders can regroup. That’s partly why the government is keen to send 700 troops, about a quarter of the proposed 3,300, to join the Ecowas-led and UN-backed intervention force to liberate northern Mali.
A major breakthrough for the government is that it has finally been able to infiltrate the Boko Haram . The State Security Service, or SSS, has been able to recruit informants from the Islamists, some of whom are now in northern Mali. The military’s recent successes against the sect are a direct consequence of reliable intelligence from these informants. Abubakar Adam Kambar, also known as Abu Yasir, was killed in August by soldiers in Kano. Kambar’s killing wasn’t publicized at the time so as not to jeopardize the military’s operation. Kambar, who had close ties with AQIM, is one of the top three Boko Haram leaders designated as global terrorists by the US State Department in June. The other two are Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau, or Abu Mohammed, and his second-in-command Khalid al-Barnawi, or Abu Hafsat.
On September 22, a two-day gun battle between the military and Boko Haram members in Damaturu left 36 sect members dead and more than 200 others arrested. Five days earlier at the outskirt of Kano, Boko Haram’s prominent member and spokesman Abu Qaqa , and a senior commander, Isa Abuja, were shot dead by soldiers. This dealt a serious blow to the Islamist because Qaqa was the group’s chief propagandist. He interfaced with the media and also coordinated the sect’s media.
But the military’s most significant blow till date was dealt during an October 7 offensive in Damaturu where 35 sect members including the notorious one-eyed Bakaka, a field commander and close associate of Shekau, was killed. That day, the military was a whisker away from killing or capturing the elusive Shekau.
…to be continued.
To continue to the part two click HERE
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