Chad: On Friday, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) claimed shelling Chadian Army HQ near Lake Chad, Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria, and released a photo report showing its fighters carrying out the attack. The photo report shows mortar attack at Litri Chad, killing one soldier and wounding another. The attack was reportedly carried out on Thursday.
ITCT Associate Jasmine Opperman, while talking to the ITCT Newsdesk, said, “Recent Islamic State West Africa (ISWA / ISWAP) attacks clearly show a group positioning itself as an insurgency movement with an enhanced capacity to execute attacks in the Lake Chad Region. Targeting Nigerian military forces and barracks seizing weapons indicates a renewed mobilization and strength which is capable of reaching deep into Borno state. The army has proven completely vulnerable to ISWA attacks and morale among soldiers at a new all-time low. Most recent attacks include the 12th September 2018 attack, an armed assault on a military barracks in Damasak, as well as the 6th and 7th September 2018 attack, where the ISWA overran the military base at Gudumbali. On 8th July 2017, ISWA released a photo report on weapons seized during an attack on a military checkpoint in Yobe, Nigeria. Estimations on the exact number of soldiers killed during these attacks differ, with indications of at least 100 casualties.
While talking about the impact on Nigerian soldiers, Jasmine says, “The battle against Boko Haram and ISWA resulted in an inevitable low morale among soldiers. On 12th August 2018 discontent within the Nigerian Defence Force was on display. Mutiny by some soldiers resulted in the occupation of the Maiduguri airport and disruption of flights. According to the Nigerian media the soldiers refused to board a plane that was to transfer them from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, to the town of Marte, close to the border with Niger.”
On 20th September 2018, Eye Witness News quoted a security source, speaking on condition of anonymity: “The situation in the northeast is deteriorating. They are running out of weapons, ammo and basic equipment. They are exhausted.” Vincent Foucher, who studies Boko Haram at the French National Centre for Science Research, added that the “The military is a bit like sitting ducks, waiting for a very mobile and versatile enemy to strike at a weak point or another”.
ITCT Associate Jasmine Opperman further says, “For now ISWA is operating in an environment favourable in strengthening its position, an environment in which communities are left vulnerable and exposed to violence attributed to Nigerian soldiers accused of human rights abuses, Boko Haram indiscriminate attacks against civilians and a grim socio-economic environment. ISWA is exploiting fear and a desperate desire of a return to normality by communities in projecting a moderate alternative to communities. Reuters reported that ISWA is out to win the hearts and minds of people by providing security and allowing economic activities, such as digging wells, giving out seeds and fertilizer and providing safe pasture for herders. A herder from the area stated that ‘If you are a herder, driver or trader, they won’t touch you – just follow their rules and regulations governing the territory’. The question is for how long the ISWA can refrain from enforcing its Takfir ideology on communities. Reported Kidnappings and killing of people not willing to pay protection money could be first indicators of the ISWA most significant challenge: how to maintain an image of being ‘moderate’ versus the Islamic State uncompromising extremist ideology. On 19th February 2018, the ISWA stormed the village of Dapchi in Yobe State and kidnapped between 110 and 111 students. Leah Sharibu is the only Dapchi girl held captive for her reluctance to convert to ISWA extremist ideology is a grim reminder that the ISWA is but an extension of the Islamic State.”