The spread of Islamic terrorism across West Africa 2020 to date
Charles Nwoke, Abakaliki, Nigeria
March 8, 2021
Image courtesy of local sources, fair use.
In West Africa, there have been lots of terrorist attacks over the years. Most of these acts have been caused by the popular Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province, but one should know that other groups operate freely in the region.
Boko Haram and a splinter group called the Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) have stepped up attacks in recent years in Nigeria and neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
More than 36,000 persons have been gruesomely murdered, most of them in Nigeria and three million people have deserted their various homes since Boko Haram launched its insurrection in northeastern Nigeria in 2009.
Niger is also being hit by terrorists crossing from Mali.
At least three army officers were killed in intense fighting between Nigerian Army and Islamist militants around a key garrison town in the Lake Chad area, a security source said Wednesday.
According to reports, the soldiers died when an army vehicle burst into flames after a car filled with explosives rammed into a convoy on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
PRNigeria reported intelligence sources as saying that a patrol was raided near Monguno on Tuesday evening, but the patrol was quickly reinforced and the attack was repelled.
A source said, “Though there were fewer casualties on the Nigerian troops through Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, many Boko Haram Terrorists were however eliminated during the encounter.”
In a statement released later on Wednesday, Islamic State said fighters from its West Africa Province affiliate carried out the attack, claiming that a car bomb was detonated inside a Nigerian Army base in Monguno, leading to clashes that “killed eight elements and wounded others and damaged three armored vehicles.” It said a four-wheel-drive vehicle, weapons, and ammunition were captured.
Monguno is in the Lake Chad area, around 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri. It has been repeatedly attacked by insurgents who have made several failed attempts to overrun the large military Super Camp located just outside the town.
AFP reported that the attack happened during fighting with ISWAP militants in Monguno after dozens of fighters aboard several trucks fitted with machine guns attacked the town.
In another development, Heavily armed militants carried out an “extremely violent” attack on a vital aid facility housing United Nations workers in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, the U.N. said on Monday, January 20, 2020.
No aid workers were harmed in the assault, but a military source said that one soldier and four assailants died in the ensuing gunfight.
The humanitarian hub in Ngala “was the direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives” on Saturday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a release.
Humanitarian and military sources said militants in trucks fitted with machine guns stormed the hub which is near a camp for displaced people, AFP reported. An aid worker said the insurgents fired anti-aircraft machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades as they engaged soldiers in battle.
OCHA said, “Protective security measures deployed at the humanitarian hub prevented any harm to the staff who was in the facility.”
“The soldiers managed to evacuate the aid staff to their base close by while fighting continued,” the aid worker said.
At least 20 displaced people awaiting assistance were killed, Reuters reported witnesses as saying.
Also, The death toll from a jihadist attack on a military convoy in northeast Nigeria has risen from 23 to 35, while 30 troops are still missing, security sources said Thursday.
Fighters linked to the so-called Islamic State group ambushed the convoy on Tuesday at Bulabulin village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Twenty-three soldiers were initially thought to have been killed in Tuesday’s attack, and many were listed as missing. But security sources said more bodies had now been found in a nearby bush.
“We lost 35 soldiers from the ambush. Eighteen others were injured while 30 are still missing. Their fate is not known,” a security source told AFP. “More bodies were recovered in the bush by rescue teams which led to a rise in the deaths,” he said.
The death toll from an attack by jihadists linked to the Islamic State group on a village in northeast Nigeria has risen to 69, security sources and residents said Wednesday.
Fighters believed to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction shot and ran over residents with vehicles in the assault on the remote village of Felo on Tuesday.
The sources told AFP that the death toll had risen from 59 after 10 more bodies were discovered in the countryside around the herding community.
“They killed 69 persons. More bodies were discovered scattered on the open expanse,” a senior military officer said.
Ibrahim Liman, a member of a government-backed anti-jihadist militia, gave the same overall figure. “The bodies were strewn over a large area as the insurgents pursued their victims, shooting them and crushing them with their vehicles,” he said.
Meanwhile, on November 30 last year, at least 110 people were killed in a weekend attack on farmworkers in northeast Nigeria blamed on jihadists, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country said on Sunday, making it the deadliest raid on civilians this year.
The attack, in a state gripped by a jihadist insurgency for more than 10 years, took place the same day as long-delayed local elections in the state.
“I am outraged and horrified by the gruesome attack against civilians carried out by non-state armed groups in villages near Borno State capital Maiduguri,” Edward Kallon said in a statement.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack.” Initial tolls indicated 43 and then at least 70 dead from Saturday’s massacre.
Some locals blamed the attack on Boko Haram fighters, but Bulama Bukarti, an analyst with the Tony Blair Institute, said the rival IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were more active in the area.
In the fight against insurgency, Nigerian soldiers backed by fighter jets on Tuesday recaptured a town in the restive northeast seized last week by jihadists after they overran a military base, the army said.
Troops had recovered the town of Marte and “adjoining communities” in the Lake Chad region from jihadists, after intense fighting, the army said.
“The troops backed by air cover… successfully charged through Marte town, destroying several Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) and landmines laced across their route,” said the statement.
Government troops were in “total control” of the area and had killed “scores” of jihadists during the gun battle, the army added.
On February 15, 2021, fighters from the IS-aligned Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) seized the town after overrunning a base there, killing eight soldiers, military sources said.
On Sunday, the army chief gave troops a 48-hour ultimatum to recover Marte during a visit to troops fighting the jihadists in the northeast.
Hundreds of Marte residents had been trapped since ISWAP seized the town.
Two soldiers were killed early on Tuesday, May 27, when jihadists attacked a military position in northern Cameroon after crossing from Nigeria, sources said, while seven other soldiers were injured in a mine blast in the same village.
The device exploded when the soldiers’ vehicle was passing, according to an army colonel.
Both the explosion and the overnight attack took place at Soueram, close to the Nigerian border in Cameroon’s Far North region, the colonel and a local official told AFP. “Two Cameroonian soldiers were killed” in the overnight assault, while five jihadists died in the counter-attack, the colonel said.
The attack was claimed by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity. ISWAP is a splinter group of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which has led a bloody 11-year campaign against perceived Western influence.
An army vehicle was destroyed and the jihadists made off with a piece of heavy weaponry, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A local leader, who also asked not to be identified, confirmed the attack and the toll, adding that there were no civilian casualties.
The Far North is an impoverished tongue of land that lies between Chad to the east and Nigeria to the west and has been regularly hit by jihadists making incursions from northeast Nigeria since 2014.
In another development, Jihadists crossing from Nigeria killed three members of a village self-defense force Monday, January 4, in northern Cameroon, the local mayor said.
“Boko Haram killed three members of the vigilance committee this morning” in the village of Kaliari, the mayor of Mozogo district, and also its traditional leader, Mahamat Chetima Abba, told AFP.
Cameroon has set up civilian self-defense groups in remote areas in its Far North region, which has been hit by deadly incursions from neighboring Nigeria.
A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the toll, and gave the age of the fatalities as 25, 30, and 40.
Chad’s defense minister discussed plans to deploy a battalion of military personnel to the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area with his French and Swedish counterparts on Monday, January 20, 2020, according to reports.
France’s Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly arrived in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Sunday to begin a two-day visit to the Sahel region accompanied by Sweden’s Minister for Defence, Peter Hultqvist, the French ministry said in a statement.
The European delegation met Chad’s defense and foreign affairs ministers, along with presidency and cabinet officials, al-Wihda reported. The French ministry said they were to be accompanied by Major General Pascal Facon, who commands the French-led Operation Barkhane counterterrorism force headquartered in N’Djamena.
“The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss technical and legal details as well as preconditions for the deployment of Chadian troops in the Tri-border area,” al-Wihda reported Chad’s Minister of National Defence General Mahamat Abali Salah as saying.
Parly announced that Chad’s President Idriss Déby Itno had instructed the armed forces to send a battalion to the tri-border zone, according to Tchad Infos.
The meeting came a week after a summit in Pau in southwestern France, where President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel states announced a new Coalition for the Sahel which will see increased coordination between French and local forces focused on the tri-border zone and targeting Islamic State as a priority.
Boko Haram fighters killed six Chadian soldiers in the Lake Chad region, where deadly jihadist attacks against civilians and security forces are on the rise, the army said Tuesday, 21 October 2020.
Security experts say Boko Haram, which originated in Nigeria in 2009, has established bases on islets dotting Lake Chad, a vast swampy expanse in the border region straddled by Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
The soldiers were killed while patrolling a group of islets on the Chad-Nigeria border, army spokesman General Azem Bermendoa Agouna told AFP.
Twelve other soldiers were wounded and the military killed around 10 “terrorists,” he said.
The Chadian army launched an offensive against Boko Haram in April after some 100 soldiers died in an attack by the group on one of its bases.
President Idriss Deby then claimed to have pushed the jihadists out. But attacks have continued despite the military operation.
In another development, Four soldiers deployed to Lake Chad were killed when a mine set by jihadists blew up their boat, Chadian sources said on Wednesday, the 25 November 2020.
The incident happened on Tuesday in the vast, marshy Lakelands, where Chadian forces are battling a years-long jihadist insurgency, they said.
“Boko Haram placed an improvised device in the water, which exploded when their canoe passed by, killing four soldiers and wounding about 20 others,” an army officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Dimoya Souapebe, the prefect (state representative) for the region confirmed the toll and said the canoe, also called a pirogue, had been transporting troops between Ngouboua and Litri.
Chad, along with Niger and Cameroon, is struggling with a jihadist campaign that Boko Haram launched in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 and then took into the wider Lake Chad region.
More than 36,000 people, most of them in Nigeria, have been killed and some three million have fled their homes, according to UN figures.
The lake’s marshland, dotted with islands, is used as a refuge by the jihadists.
Chadian officials typically make no distinction between Boko Haram and a dissident group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), in their reference to the jihadists.
“Terrorists” killed around 100 people in two villages in western Niger, the latest in a string of civilian massacres that have rocked the jihadist-plagued Tillaberi region, a local mayor said Sunday, January 4.
The attacks on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye occurred Saturday just as first-round presidential results were announced.
They were waged by “terrorists who came riding about 100 motorcycles,” said Almou Hassane, the mayor of the Tondikiwindi commune that administers both villages. “There were up to 70 dead in Tchoma Bangou and 30 dead in Zaroumadareye,” he told AFP, adding he had just returned from the scene of the attacks.
The two villages are 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital Niamey.
“There have also been 75 wounded, some of whom have been evacuated to Niamey and Ouallam for treatment,” Hassane said.
The attackers split into two columns to carry out simultaneous attacks on the two villages, which lie seven kilometers (four miles) apart, the mayor added.
Prime Minister Brigi Rafini led a delegation to the area on Sunday, while President Mahamadou Issoufou will hold an extraordinary security council on Monday, the presidency’s office said.
Local elected officials first reported the raids on Saturday, but the death toll was unclear, with one source putting it at around 50.
Issoufou Issaka, a former government minister who comes from the region, said the jihadists carried out the double massacre after local people had lynched two of their numbers. He gave an estimated death toll of 83.
On November 30 last year, Niger’s army, locked in a battle with jihadist groups in several regions, should double in size to “at least 50,000” soldiers in the next five years, Defense Minister Issoufou Katambe has told parliament.
The impoverished country lies in the heart of the Sahel, a region plagued by overlapping jihadist insurgencies that have spilled across borders over the past decade.
“An army must have at least 50,000 to 100,000 or 150,000 soldiers and we are at only 25,000, which is why the president of the republic has pledged that in the next five years we must increase this figure, we must have at least 50,000 in this army,” he told lawmakers on Saturday.
He told reporters later that the decision was part of the long-term fight against terrorism and said: “arrangements were being made to achieve this objective.”
Jihadist fighters come into Niger in the west from Mali and Burkina Faso. In the southeast, Boko Haram and a splinter group called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) launch attacks.
More than 30 “terrorists” were killed during a series of operations conducted by the France-led Operation Barkhane force in Mali on January 24, 2020, the French Armed Forces Ministry said.
“In recent weeks, Barkhane has stepped up the pressure on armed terrorist groups, in the Tri-border area and beyond, through several one-off operations” that were hitting the terrorists hard, “challenging their freedom of action and limiting their capacity to cause harm,” the Thursday, January 23 release said.
Two operations earlier in the month were carried out in the Mopti region of central Mali, which the release said is “subject to the predation of the Katiba Macina,” one of the constituent groups of al-Qaeda-linked JNIM.
A commando operation on January 10 in northern Mopti “put three terrorists, including a logistics officer, out of action.”
Then, between January 14 and 15, during a helicopter-borne operation in southern Mopti that was marked by fierce fighting and several skirmishes, “a full combat group was neutralized.”
The Barkhane commandos were supported by helicopter gunships and an airstrike, and around 30 “jihadists were put out of action,” about 20 motorcycles were destroyed, and a large quantity of telephone equipment was captured.
On the morning of January 19, “five armed terrorists were neutralized by a drone strike” conducted in the Liptako, near Tindinbawen in Mali, not far from Inatès in Niger, an area where the release said Islamic State is “rampant.” Three motorcycles were also destroyed during the operation.
On December 10, more than 70 Nigerien soldiers were killed in a complex Islamic State attack on a military camp in Inmates, the deadliest on Niger’s military since the armed forces began fighting Islamist militants in 2015.
French commando operations and airstrikes against groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Mali put 30 militants “out of action,” the Armed Forces Ministry said on 8 February 2020.
The operations come as the France-led Operation Barkhane builds command coordination with local partner forces in sub-Saharan Africa’s Sahel region, setting up dedicated coordination mechanisms for the new Sahel Coalition in Niger’s capital Niamey and Chad’s capital N’Djamena.
Between February 6 and 7, forces deployed to Operation Barkhane conducted an “operation of opportunity” which “resulted in the neutralization of some 20 terrorists and the destruction of several vehicles,” the ministry said, in a Friday, February 7 release.
A Reaper drone, a Mirage 2000 fighter jet patrol, a Tigre attack helicopter, and a Cougar transport helicopter “took part in two targeted strikes in an area where terrorist fighters had been spotted,” it said.
The action was carried out “in the west of the Gourma” region, in an area where the “katiba is rampant,” the release said. The ministry did not give further detail, but the likely target was Katiba Macina, one of the constituent groups of JNIM, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
Also this week, Barkhane forces continued operations in the Liptako, where two separate commando actions led to a dozen terrorists being “put out of action” in areas where “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” is active, the release said, without giving further details.
French military spokesperson Colonel Frederic Barbry said that 10 militants were “neutralized” in the actions, AFP reported.
The French Armed Forces groups those killed, injured, or taken prisoner under the terms “neutralized” or taken “out of action,” according to AFP.
Around 50 militants were on February 21 last year, “neutralized” in actions carried out by the France-led Operation Barkhane targeting Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali, according to an Armed Forces Ministry release.
The operations, conducted in two phases between February 9 and 17 around the central town of Mopti, were the result of “preparatory work and intelligence gathering that made it possible to characterize with certainty the activity of armed terrorist groups,” the Thursday, February 20 release said.
Around 30 motorcycles and two pickup trucks were destroyed, and weapons, telephones, and electronic equipment were seized during the actions.
In the first operation, carried out northwest of Mopti between February 9 and 10, airstrikes conducted by Reaper drones and Mirage 2000 jet fighter aircraft along with combat helicopter engagements “neutralized some 20 armed combatants” including an Islamic State in the Greater Sahara officer.
The French Armed Forces groups fighters killed, injured, or taken prisoner under the terms “neutralized” or taken “out of action,” according to AFP.
A second action was carried out between February 16 and 17 south of Mopti, “in a region where Katiba Macina is rampant.”
Katiba Macina is one of the constituent groups of JNIM, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
Airstrikes and helicopter fire were accompanied by a helicopter-borne assault, and “some 30 jihadist fighters were put out of action.”
“These two operations, with their very heavy material and human toll, weaken the offensive potential of the armed terrorist groups in this region,” the ministry said.
Six persons including civilians were killed when a military detachment was ambushed in northern Burkina Faso, security sources said on Sunday.
The nation, among the world’s poorest, is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
“A unit from Gaskinde (Soum province) was ambushed on Saturday. One (soldier) sadly lost his life, and another was injured. On our side, there were five other casualties, all volunteers,” a security source told AFP.
The five civilians were part of Volunteers for the Defence of the Nation (VDP), a network of civilian volunteers who help the army in their uphill battle against the various jihadist groups operating in the country.
“The Kourao VDP was patrolling the area and were targeted by armed individuals. A unit went to their aid and came under heavy fire,” said another security source, confirming the death of one soldier.
The source said “the enemy side” had also suffered casualties in the ensuing exchange of fire, without giving more details.
The jihadist insurgency began in neighboring Mali in 2012 and spread into its territory in 2015, killing more than 1,200 people and displacing roughly one million.
Last week six people, including a pregnant woman and a young girl, were killed in a roadside bomb, also in the country’s north.
The poorly equipped and disorganized army is flailing, and the creation of the VDP was an attempt to bolster efforts against the insurgency.
Members receive 14 days of training and are then sent out on patrols and surveillance missions, equipped with light arms.
More than 100 have been killed in combat since January 2020.
Over 1,000 troops from Chad — pledged in a recent Sahel summit — are expected to arrive in days to help strengthen security in what is known as the three-border zone, where the frontiers of Burkina, Mali, and Niger converge.