At least Boko Haram 800 terrorists and those of rival ISIS of West Africa Province (ISWAP) are believed to have been killed in ongoing coordinated land and air offensives by a multinational military task force.
Sophisticated weapons and equipment belonging to the insurgents—including AK-47 rifles, gun trucks, ammunition, canoes, improvised explosive devices, and cell phones—have also been destroyed during the so-called “Operation Lake Sanity” launched in March 2022, in the Lake Chad region.
The 10,000-man Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) is a combined military effort by Lake Chad-member states—Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger—as well as Benin, geared toward defeating Boko Haram in the region.
The latest victory occurred on May 25 “deep inside the Lake Chad Islands,” when the combined force allegedly killed scores of Islamist militants.
“The task force continues to make impressive gains in the ongoing operation,” Lt. Col. Kamarudeen Adegoke, chief military public information officer, said in a May 29 press statement sent to The Epoch Times.
Adegoke wrote, “The troops—alongside the follow-up air strikes—neutralised over 25 terrorists.”
He added, “as well as the recovery of one AK-47 rifle, one anti-aircraft gun, and hundreds of [rounds of] assorted ammunition.”
“Also, one gun truck bearing Cameroon Gendarmes’ logo loaded with fuel was captured and destroyed, household items including uniforms and 11 Boko Haram/ISWAP motorcycles were captured and burnt, while two water-pumping machines were also recovered and the entire camp thoroughly burnt.
“In their haste to escape, the criminals left their 5-year-old child named Babagana.”
The Boko Haram insurgency started in north-eastern Nigeria in 2009 and later spilled over to neighboring countries in 2013. Boko Haram—which translates literally to “Western education is forbidden”—remains one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups.
The United Nations estimates nearly 350,000 people have so far died from Boko Haram atrocities that have also displaced more than 3 million people.
Cameroon recorded the highest number of Boko Haram attacks against civilians in 2020—totalling 234—slightly higher than Nigeria (100), Niger (92), and Chad (12) combined, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. think tank.
Security experts believe the recent casualties inflicted on the insurgents are not unconnected to this internal squabble.
“The so-called ISWAP-Boko Haram factions have been tactically weakened and structurally disorganized in the past three years,” according to David Otto, director of counterterrorism for the Geneva Centre of African Security and Strategic Studies.
“Senior jihadist leaders are cornered and assassinated by rival factions leaving young and inexperienced fighters to take charge,” Otto said.
“Jihadists have been infiltrated by young fighters with no ideology … but [are] interested in money and power.
“Infighting and hunting of rival leaders have disrupted the unity of ISWAP … forcing rival groups to escape the Lake Chad enclave, some ending up captured security forces.
“[The majority of] jihadists have surrendered to state security forces providing information or strategic locations of the group,” Otto told The Epoch Times in a text.
“MNJTF states have learned through tough experience fighting invisible jihadists who used local communities as human shields.
“What we see today are signs of the benefits of learning from past operational blunders.”
In 2015, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakr Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS.
The group confirmed last year that Shekau blew himself up.
Freedom Onuoha, a senior lecturer at the University of Nigeria (Nsukka), says firepower and noticeable individual and regional state improvement in operational capacity, boosted the regional force’s recent successes.
Onuoha told The Epoch Times, “the ramping up of air assets of member states, especially Nigeria with the deployment of Super Tucano aircraft,” along with better cooperation between land, sea and air units; and increasing use of local civilian defense groups, could account for these successes.
“One of the weakest elements of military operations against the terrorists is the tendency of national and regional security forces to adopt a defensive posture against the insurgents.
“The recalibration of operational posture to assume a more offensive mode is critical to seriously degrading the terrorists and denying them the opportunity to plan actions or regroup to fight.”
Sustaining the momentum to break the terrorists’ resilience is critical at this point, according to Onuoha.
He added the increasing number of prisoners “is very likely an intelligence mine” that will allow the task force to gain a deeper understanding of the terrorist groups and how to attack them.
In one operation carried out in late April, the regional force rescued more than 40 women and children. It lost three soldiers and a civilian. About 30 soldiers have been wounded.
“The injured were mainly victims of the improvised explosives that we encountered in the course of the operations,” Maj. Gen. Abdul-Khalifah Ibrahim, commander of the task force said in a late April interview with the BBC.
“The criminal terrorists always run when they see our forces, but then they make use of these improvised explosives,” he said.
“We discovered a factory where they made improvised explosive devices that they can put in the bodies of their fighters, or [which] they could put under the ground.”
In order to maintain the ongoing battlefield successes, Otto suggests the regional task force needs to “continually uproot the jihadist from their hideouts, intercept their basic supplies, block … supply routes, prevent recruitment … and provide a safe route for those willing to surrender.”
“These processes must be replicated in all affected MNJTF [member states] to prevent creating gaps,” he said.
“Operationally, increased MNJTF coordination and planned operations mean all viable jihadist escape routes have been identified and blocked.”
But he warned there was a likelihood of an increase in suicide attacks.
“It’s the worse time to be a jihadist in the Lake Chad basin—[there is] literally nowhere to hide.”