Situation, Facts and Events

Overview of Boko Haram terrorist activity in Nigeria

As indicated by the US Africa Command (Africom), in June there were outbreaks of violence fr om the Boko Haram group in Nigeria.

Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria killed 20 young men in one of a series of early June attacks in the mountainous Shiroro communities of Niger State. Witnesses in the town of Bassa said Boko Haram fighters attacked in broad daylight on June 6, shot the victims at close range and beheaded 10 of them. Residents were forced to hold the severed heads as the terrorists took pictures and made video recordings. “They told us that anybody who refused to be recruited into their fold would be given a similar treatment,” an anonymous witness told Nigeria’s Premium Times online newspaper. “They said they used the 10 beheaded youths as an example. They said they had warned us that everybody should vacate the community but that we refused. It’s either we join them, or we leave the community.” Boko Haram also torched houses and killed domestic animals in four other Shiroro villages during the two-day terror campaign. 

Analysts say the terrorists have gradually regrouped in central Shiroro after being driven fr om northeast Nigeria. Retired Nigerian Navy Capt. Umar Bakori said the group likely is attracted to Shiroro’s strategic location, fertile soil, and abundance of gold and copper. “About 90 percent of Shiroro County’s inhabitants are farmers,” Bakori said. “If Boko Haram overtakes Shiroro, they’ll have access to vast lands filled with mineral deposits and agricultural land.” This would provide them with more than enough revenue and resources to sustain their terrorism, Bakori added.

In mid-April, Boko Haram was blamed for killing and beheading nine people during ambushes in at least four Shiroro farming communities. An unknown number of Nigerian Soldiers died days earlier after a military vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device. The attacks drove Nigerian military forces from the area. Hundreds of residents also left. Emmanuel Umar, a former commissioner of internal security in Niger State, said Boko Haram likely seeks to replicate the situation it once exploited in northeast Nigeria’s rugged Sambisa Forest. The terror group was known to bring kidnapped girls to the forest and launch attacks against security forces from it before disappearing into its dense cover. “They want to create a haven wh ere they can plan and launch attacks without fear of being caught,” Umar told

Sambisa Forest was Boko Haram’s main base until it was driven out by its rival, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in 2021. Boko Haram had maintained a presence in Shiroro since 2014 but recently increased its operations there. “For several years, they lay low, regrouping and re-strategizing,” Umar said. “Now, they’re trying to establish a stronghold in Shiroro.”  Bakori said the Nigerian military is unable to properly defend Shiroro because it lacks manpower and equipment. He suggested that men and women with the Vigilant Group of Nigeria (VGN) could complement military activities in Shiroro.  

Boko Haram’s activities in Niger State are not confined to Shiroro. The group is blamed for an attack on the village of Kuchi, part of the Munya community, wh ere eight people were killed and at least 160 kidnapped in late May. Aminu Najume, the local government chairman, said about 300 gunmen arrived on motorbikes and stayed for several hours. Boko Haram controlled 42 communities in Munya and Shiroro as of October 2023, according to Sen. Musa Sani, who represents the Niger East district of Niger State. According to him, Boko Haram terrorists have mounted their flags in many of the villages they have captured, such as Kaure, Alawa and Magami, and the inhabitants of these war-torn parts of the state have been abandoned and left to their fate. 

 As some experts indicate, there are many reasons for Boko Haram's regrouping in the north-west and north-central regions. These include the desire to create an Islamic state extending beyond the northeast, the need for recruitment, and financial gain from receiving ransoms and other activities such as illegal gold mining. However, another important reason is distraction. Fueling security threats elsewhere removes or eases security pressure on the northeast, especially the Sambisa forest. This gives the group some respite from military operations at his base in Sambisa.
In the past, continued military operations in the Sambisa forest have forced Boko Haram commanders to contemplate fleeing to the Mandara Mountains. Now they are repeating the same thing in Shiroro. In these maneuvers, Islamists act in close symbiosis with local criminals. A group of former Boko Haram members led by Adam Bitri, a pioneer of the group and a close friend of the late founder Mohammed Yusuf and Shekau, played a crucial role in the alliance between the bandits and the Jama'tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (JAS). Bitri fled government-provided housing in northwestern Nigeria's Kaduna state in 2019 while waiting to enroll in a deradicalization program. He united up with kidnappers in Zaria and Birnin Gwari, hotbeds of crime in the state, and re-established links with JAS. Shortly after Bitri's death, Shekau sent a delegation led by Sadiku to ensure that his death would not jeopardize the developing relationship with some gangs loyal to him. The delegation, which was to be permanently based in the northwestern and northcentral regions, helped conclude a treaty between groups loyal to Shekau.
Violent extremist groups and criminals often rely on intelligence gathering to operate through local police forces. More than half of the country's police personnel are hired by individuals and organizations who have the money to pay them. Apart from the underfunding of the police, other issues include corruption, human rights violations and lack of training in modern policing techniques, and the Nigerian government urgently needs to prioritize all these issues. 

Source: Институт Ближнего Востока