Boko Haram: The Mali, African Sahel Connection – Part Two By Maigida Johnson
If you missed the part one, you can read it HERE
Shekau By The Whiskers
The military’s most significant blow till date was dealt during an October 7 offensive in Damaturu. That day, the military was a whisker away from killing or capturing the elusive Shekau. It was a bloody confrontation that lasted several hours. Loud bangs filled the air as explosions were detonated and the sound of automatic rifles rent the air. For citizens of Damaturu, it was Armageddon playing out in their city. Boko Haram sect members fought hard to protect their leader and top commandants including Shekau. Word within the security circle was that Shekau sustained gunshot injuries, maybe even killed. However what is certain is that he hasn’t released any YouTube video since. By the time the dust settled after the gun battle, 35 sect members including the notorious one-eyed Bakaka, a field commander and close associate of Shekau, lay dead. Dozens of rocket propelled grenades and explosives, AK-47 assault rifles, seven laptop computers and three all-terrains vehicles were recovered by the military. One of Shekau’s wives with a newborn and a three-year old daughter were also arrested.
The killing, capture and exile of top commanders meant the Boko Haram highest decision-making council, or Shura, was decimated. This is even so because new members appointed to the 18-member council brought divergent views, slowing the sects operations.
Call from Dasuki
In June, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Sambo Dasuki as National Security Adviser, or NSA. The new NSA hit the ground running, touring the northeast of the country where most of the insurgency is being raged and consulting with religious and political leaders from the Boko Haram strongholds of Borno and Yobe states. Within a month of becoming the NSA, Dasuki got the phone contacts for Shekau and the two actually spoke. Dasuki urged Shekau to call a truce and negotiate with the government. Shekau requested for time to consult with the Shura because he couldn’t reach that decision unilaterally. The Shura declined to start any peace talks with the government and Shekau duly relayed the message back to Sambo. However not everyone on the Shura opposed the government’s olive branch. Boko Haram faction loyal to al-Barnawi, Shekau’s number-two man, favoured dialogue as they had come to observe that the deadly attacks were a misinterpretation of Islam. Even the support of moderate Muslims was being eroded because they were increasingly getting caught up in the senseless attacks. Subsequently the al-Barnawi faction opened talks with the government, a development the presidential spokesman Reuben Abati confirmed in August and described as talks through “back-room channels”.
Schism amongst Insurgents
Shekau’s faction, having ruled out any form of dialogue with the government, was miffed after they discovered the al-Barnawi group had actually started talks. The al-Barnawi group were labelled traitors; quarrelling and in-fighting ensured and the latter was attacked. Six of their commanders including Awwal Gombe were slaughtered in Maiduguri. The al-Barnawi faction would have none of that, so they countered with a reprisal of their own. But most importantly, they sect members from the al-Barnawi faction started to snitch on the Shekau faction. They form the crux of government informants in the Boko Haram group. Information from these aggrieved sect members led to a military offensive on November 15 in Maiduguri where dozens of Boko Haram members were killed including Ibn Saleh Ibrahim, a senior commander who oversaw the northeast and the northwest. Ibrahim was the mastermind of killing on November 2 of Retired Major General Muhammadu Shuwa, a civil war hero.
…to be continued
To Continue to the part Three, click HERE
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