The Nigerian military offensive against the increasingly violent threat of Boko Haram is looking like it’s moving forward full swing. Over 90 fundamentalists were killed within 48 hours (they claim) in offensive operations conducted in Borno and Yobe states, on or around the 23rd and 24th of October.
One can’t help but wonder – with sporadic success in quelling the violent attacks of Boko Haram in recent months, to inflicting heavy casualties in just a 48-hour period, where is all this valuable intelligence actually coming from?
Let’s look at the Nigerian Army’s timeline of success here. On October 14, six suspected Boko Haram insurgents were arrested at the Maiduguri International Airport after returning home from the Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The Nigerian Army 7th Division claimed responsibility for the rather uneventful arrests and subsequent interrogations. Three of the suspects were immediately released after nothing was found to link them to known terror organizations.
The other three were not so fortunate.
A spokesperson for the Nigerian Army reported that the three remaining would continue to be held, stating “The three suspects are undergoing further interrogation,” and adding “They will face the full weight of the law” if these suspects are found to have any links directly or indirectly to terrorism or terror activities. These three “suspects” were in the army’s custody for a week before the first of the attacks began on the 23rd.
What did Nigeria’s Defense Intelligence Agency want to probe further? And were the interrogations conducted in accordance of the 12-week military intelligence/counterintelligence program implemented by AFRICOM and taught by the United States European Regional Intelligence Training Facility (E-RJITF) instructors?
According to the Nigerian Army, at or around 5:30pm local, elements of Boko Haram attacked a military checkpoint in the capital city of Damaturu, Yobe. The 3rd Division Nigerian Special Operations Battalion (3rd NSOB) were called and, according to the Joint Task Force Command, “waged a fierce encounter with the terrorists in various parts of the capitol….for several hours.”
The 3rd NSOB no doubt has received and still will receive training from SOF units augmented to the Special Operations Command Africa, or SOCAFRICA, a subcomponent to AFRICOM, both of which are stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. SOCAFRICA has a battalion of 10th SFG(A) saddled alongside them in Germany, and various A-teams from the 5th SFG(A) and 3rd SFG(A) at its disposal. SOCAFRICA has all it needs to develop and implement numerous Foreign Internal Defense (FID) operations and training. And Joint Combined Exchange Training exercises (JCETs) where ODAs train host nations in various technical and tactical skill sets. Basically, JCETs prep the potential battlefield with SOF capable/trained allies, if the need ever arose. But until that day arrives, those SOF-trained host nation army units designated Special Operations will conduct missions within their respective countries as needed. Not unlike the 3rd NSOB.
After several hours of fighting, the 3rd NSOB reported hostilities had ceased and 21 Boko Haram terrorists lay dead, with three vehicles, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosives, and 709 rounds of ammunition as the spoils that go to the victor. As usual, the Joint Task Force spokesperson would not elaborate on prisoners or casualties on either side of the fight. A 24-hour curfew was emplaced and was to be strictly enforced by local military units, as the 3rd NSOB began moving out of the capital city and waited for further orders or follow on missions.
As it turned out, the Joint Task Force wouldn’t have to wait that long. And on Thursday the 24th, a coordinated and accurate strike involving the Nigerian Air Force bombed several insurgent camps in the villages of Galangi and Lawanti in the northwest section of Borno state, where Boko Haram is known to have very strong ties. These air strikes, with follow-on JTF ground troops, inflicted heavy losses totalling 74 killed in the air strikes and ground assaults, with the survivors and seriously injured fleeing possibly into Niger.
The commander of the operation, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Dole, boasted, “The operation, which involved ground and aerial assault supported by the Nigerian Air Force, led to the destruction of the identified terrorist camps,” while only two Nigerian JTF soldiers were killed in the operation. But according to several Nigerian journalist outlets, rarely are the reports of military, insurgent, or even civilian casualties accurate.
All this leads back to the highly actionable intelligence gathered in such a short period of time. Was the counter-attack conducted by 3rd NSOB a coincidence in lieu of the real operation, which were the Boko Haram base camp airstrikes and subsequent raids in northwest Borno? Was the Borno operation driven by Nigerian DIA intelligence gathered from various sources like the detained suspects from the airport? Did the pre-planned and approved mission come about due to very fresh and very accurate information from aerial photography and topography analysis provided from lurking predators aloft along the border of Niger and Nigeria?
One thing is for sure, though: Nigerian President Jonathon Goodluck has President Barack Obama’s full affirmation and commitment to fighting Boko Haram and terrorism in northern Nigeria, with President Obama calling Boko Haram one of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world. With 9.4 percent of the world’s oil supply coming from West Africa’s leading oil-producing state, Nigeria is looking at a 25% increase in U.S. consumption of its precious resource by 2015.
The U.S. has already made good on its offer to help protect Nigeria’s precarious and vulnerable offshore and inland oil production facilities with military aid. With the elections coming to Nigeria in 2015 looming over the current Nigerian president, it would certainly help the U.S. government and its chances at better relations to assist the current regime in ridding Nigeria of its Boko Haram problem.
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