A large attack by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters on an army base in Nigeria killed 22 troops before the army was able to push the terrorists back across the border into Niger, the Nigerian army reported on Monday.

The ISIS-aligned fighters attacked the remote Nigerian army base in Burkusuma, in Nigeria’s northwestern Sokoto State in the early morning hours of Sunday. The base is close to the border with Niger. 

Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, a senior Nigerian army spokesman, said that the troops repelled the attack and killed a large number of ISWAP fighters, forcing them to withdraw back across the border toward the remote town of Bassira. The terrorists are now being pursued by Nigerian and Nigerien troops working together, Sawyerr added.

“The failed attack … was swiftly repelled by troops,” Sawyerr said. “Unfortunately, there was some level of casualties recorded on the part of own troops during the encounter,” he added without delving into specific casualty counts.

The attack killed 14 soldiers, five policemen, and three members of a civil defense force, according to civilian lawmaker witnesses speaking to Reuters.

ISWAP fighters
Video screenshot of Islamic State West Africa Province.

The northwestern area of Nigeria including Sokoto State has long been plagued by bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers. Now Islamic State terrorists have also joined the mix. The terrorists had been known to previously operate in the northeastern Borno State. 

Sawyerr said that the military was conducting a crackdown on the lawlessness in Sokoto State by clearing bandit camps in the region. He implied that the ISWAP attack may have been linked to that effort, although he didn’t provide additional information. 

“The aggressive operations of troops… as witnessed in recent months in the northwest region has been a thorn in the flesh of ISWAP and bandits,” Sawyerr said.


Terrorist Infighting

ISWAP was born out of the Boko Haram terrorist group. In 2015, Boko Haram’s then leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS’s self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Yet, in 2016, following disputes over territory and Shekau’s targeting of Muslims, al-Baghdadi replaced Boho Haram’s leader calling him an apostate. This split the group into the ISIS-affiliated ISWAP and Boko Haram.

Abubakar Shekau
Abubakar Shekau was the leader of Boko Haram until he was killed in a firefight with ISWAP.

Since then, Boko Haram and ISWAP have been bitter enemies fighting each other as well as the Nigerian military.

Shekau committed suicide on May 19, 2021. He detonated his explosive vest, as ISWAP forces were approaching his location, for fear of being captured.

The ISWAP and Boko Haram insurgencies have resulted in the death of over 300,000 people and the displacement of millions, according to the United Nations. The fighting has also spilled over into neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. 

Meanwhile, on Monday at about 0100 in Kaduna State, about 300 miles from Sokoto, another major attack by unknown attackers wielding guns and machetes killed 34 civilians in the villages of  Madamai and Abum.

Security forces were alerted and pushed the attackers out of the area after what was described as an intense firefight. Two of the attackers were apprehended.