The recent military offensive nicknamed “Operation Boma Wrath” by the Chadians in which they claimed to have killed about 1,000 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, has no doubt dealt a devastating blow against the jihadists. Consequently, there is very strong indications that the jihadists have amassed over 5,000 newly recruited hastily trained young fighters gearing up to launch simultaneous attacks against Chad security posts and armed Forces locations. It will be recalled that “Operation Boma Wrath” was launched by Chadian Armed Forces under the direct command of President Idriss Derby and the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) between March-April this year.
As part of the plan as a result of denial of access, the ISIS and Al-Qaida Africa affiliates have abandoned the 90km regular route to Lake Chad and created a special logistics route between the axis of Arege, Zari and Metele to Ngashegar. This route provides unlimited access to the free flow of arms, confinement and other battlefield logistics. According to some impeccable sources, the jihadists will be using the same Arege, Zari and Metele route (in the next 2-5 days) to transport heavily concealed items suspected to be ammunitions from some parts of Sambisa forest on special purpose vehicles. The ‘army’ of 5000 will be temporarily deployed to the waterways of Kirta and Woulgo to prepare for the upcoming onslaught. The group is suspected to be in possession of 12 barrel gun-trucks (some in bad condition) with artillery machines and vehicles hidden in Tunbun Allura, Tunbun Kurna and Tunbun Kibiya.
ISIS & AlQaida Wiyalats In Africa
Boko Haram JAS and ISWAP factions remain the most powerful and active affiliates of ISIS and Al-Qaida affiliates. These groups initially operated predominantly in the North East Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY States). But over the years, coordinated and intelligence led ground and aerial military offensives from the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Airforce pushed the jihadists to seek sanctuary in the deeply forested Lake Chad region. They have been forced to adopt and rely on guerrilla tactic and operations making use of the porous and complex terrain along the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic.
The Ripple Effect Of “Operation Boma Wrath”
In April 2020, a Chadian Army led “Operation Boma Wrath” targeted several Boko Haram/ISWAP occupied Islands in the Lac Province. On April 9th, 2020, a one minute, 17 seconds video was circulated on social media platforms. Colonel Azem Bermendoa Agouna read a statement in French in Baga-Sola–Chad Republic thus:
“This is a statement from the Chief of Army Staff. “Operation Boma Wrath” launched on the 31st of March 2020 under the supervision of the Commander in Chief (President Idris Derby) of the armed forces has come to an end. The security and defence forces with bravery and determination have chased Boko Haram terrorist from the Lac Chad Islands. Boko Haram Terrorist have been chased away from all the Lac Chad islands. This is the summary of the eight (8) days battle. On the side of our friendly forces, we counted 52 martyrs and 196 wounded. On the enemy’s side,1000 Boko Haram terrorist were neutralized (killed). Destroyed (jihadist) materials: 50 water canoes destroyed. Materials recovered (from the jihadist): Many collective and individual small arms were recovered. The security and defence forces are deeply stationed in the Islands of Niger and Nigeria while waiting to hand over to the respective army of these friendly nations.”
Background To “Operation Boma Wrath”
On March 23rd 2020, Chad experienced one of the largest single casualty from an offensive attack by Boko Haram-ISWAP jihadist factions on the Boma Peninsula- Lac Province, bordering Niger and Nigeria. In that devastating attack, ninety-eight (98) Chadian soldiers including senior officers were massacred in cold blood by the jihadists, while Forty- Seven (47) soldiers escaped with life threatening injuries. The Chadian President, Idriss Deby Itno, made an emergency visit to the scene in Boma and promised his country men and women immediate retaliation against Boko Haram ISWAP jihadists. Several videos and still images were circulated on social media showing the President and Commander-in-Chief, Idriss Derby, dressed in military fatigue commanding front line forces after launching ‘Operation Boma Wrath’ on the 31st of March 2020. After eight (8) days, the Chadian Armed Force declared mission accomplished and said it had cleared the Lac Islands of all jihadist killing, 1000 of them, while a few others narrowly escaped to Niger and Nigeria border towns of Lelewa , Duwa, Wallal, Pepewa and Hauwa Bulumwa village. This is more than a revenge mission for Boko Haram ISWAP fighters.
Nigerian Army And Air Force Offensives
A current fierce land and aerial offensive campaign by the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Airforce and MNJTF sector 3 under the leaderships of Chief of Army Staff Lt-Gen Tukur Yusufu Buratai and Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar has degraded the battlefield capabilities of Boko Haram ISWAP factions. One of the offensives in Marte LGA led to the killing of ISWAP most powerful commander – Amir Abu Imrana who is believed to have died of gun-shot wounds in Sabon Tumbuns.
These successful battlefield offensives on Boko Haram leadership and strongholds by the Nigerian Army and Air Force in the Sambisa forest and Tumbuns of Lake Chad is pushing the Jihadists to seek for a retreat towards Chadian Islands. With a visible presence of Chadian security and Armed Forces in the Lac Province to prevent incursions, Boko Haram/ISWAP anticipates that a 5,000 fighters’ team will be enough to penetrate the borders and seek for a safe haven in one of the remote Islands in the Lac Province.
Measuring Defeat In Asymmetric Warfare – Lessons From “Operation Boma Wrath” Declaration
The Chadian Army had declared that no single Boko Haram/ISWAP jihadist remained on its side of the border after “Operation Boma Wrath”. This recent development clearly demonstrates the asymmetric nature of jihadist operations in the Lake Chad axis. Boko Haram and ISWAP jihadist could use the porous borders in lake Chad to escape and plan for a comeback. There is a need for national and regional multi-agency civilian and military coordination. The Chadian security and Armed Forces should maintain a strong and visible presence in the Lac Islands and enhance its Force coordination with Baga-Sola Sector 2 axis of the MNJTF, simultaneously engaging with partner states in developing the MNJTF civilian component.
The security and Armed Forces of Chad need to remain on high alert to monitor this jihadist threat. Boko Haram and ISWAP will continue to exploit the massive ungoverned terrains; complex waterways; tunnels; Hills; thousands of Islands; deep forest and waste lands with local organised criminal groups in the Lake Chad and Sahel region. This analytic alert recommends a pro-active state and regional intelligence, security and military engagement; absolute local vigilance and a sustained regional collaborative effort as part of a joint COIN strategy. Ongoing battlefield regional COIN efforts need to be comprehensively coordinated and sustained through operations ‘LAFIYA DOLE’; ‘Boma Wrath’ and the MNJTF ‘Operation ‘YANCIN TAFKI’.
In horizontal warfare, all hands must be proactively unified towards a common positive goal. The local communities; the national police Force, the Intelligence community; the international community; INGOs; the security and armed forces of the MNJTF countries MUST abandon inter-agency and regional rivalry and coordinate a bottom-top strategic civil-military approach. One that will effectively put an end to jihadist violent activities in the region. “See something – Say Something”!!
About the Author
David Otto is a Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert. He is a Certified Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti-Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a programme trainer with the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB). Twitter @ottotgs