The Nigerian Army stated that it carried out a “successful” mop-up operation in Sambisa Forest. The operation led to the arrest of 1,240 suspected Boko Haram terrorists from Sambisa Forest, more fighters surrendered to Niger Republic authorities.
A “French man” was also arrested from Sambisa Forest and he later explained that he helped Boko Haram insurgents unlock and repair Armored Personnel Carriers and other fighting equipment. Reports stated that the French individual is of Caucasian descent.
The Army also recovered and handed over Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s Quran and flag to President Buhari as a symbolic sign that the base of Boko Haram has been cleared by the Nigerian Army. But following the announcement of the Nigerian Army, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a new video he purportedly shot on Christmas Day, stating that “We (he and his loyal fighters) are safe and have not been flushed out of anywhere”. As usual, the Nigerian Army responded saying the video was ‘terrorist propaganda” that should be ignored.
Picture: Screenshot of Shekau video shot on 25th December 2016, but released on 29th December 2016. The video grainy compared to previous High Definition quality videos the group once enjoyed while receiving media support from ISIS. The video was hazy owing to the current Harmattan weather in Northern Nigeria. Video Source: TRAC Terrorism
The Army’s operation in Sambisa was an overdue battle in which the military with their stronger fire power may have driven Boko Haram insurgents from their safe haven, it however hasn’t by any means ended the insurgency. In fact, the surrender of hundreds of Boko Haram fighters in Niger further points to the real consequence of the operation which is:
- The terrorists had enough time to escape before the military closed the noose around Sambisa which has led to reports of Boko Haram insurgents being found and arrested in Abuja, Lagos and Niger state and Niger Republic. In other words, Nigeria still has weak state and national borders which means that fighters simply flee a hotbed and lay low and return once things have calmed down.
- Recovering Shekau’s flag and Quran is not the same thing as finding and apprehending Shekau. Following the release of his video, there have been a consistent and steady stream of attempted and successful suicide bombings and attacks in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
- The fact that a Borno State local government chairman was arrested for harboring fleeing insurgents, 1,240 suspected fighters were arrested from Sambisa and that a high number of female suicide bombers still strap on bombs and willingly carry out attacks, indicate that public support for Boko Haram still hasn’t waned.
- The public still do not trust the Army or the Nigerian government and neither do the military or government officials trust the locals. As long as the “hearts and minds” of the locals still have not been won over, Boko Haram still has a safe haven and is a tree whose stump may have been cut, but the root is still active and ready to feed nutrients to what’s left of the tree.
Bulwark Intelligence Analysts assess that the North East will continue to experience sporadic Boko Haram bombing attacks because the underlining causes of the insurgency including, lack of development in the area and unfavorable government-local relationships, still exist.
Until the key decision makers… those keeping the group together, facilitating IEDs, giving sermons encouraging girls to become IED couriers… are found, we can still expect random IED attacks.
Another impending threat assessed is the possible spread of Boko Haram members across Nigeria, including southern states, who want to carry out attacks. The Boko Haram insurgent arrested in Abuja stated that there were “many of his colleagues in the city”.
Although, it will be initially hard for the insurgents to be successful in infiltrating the society because they will stick out from the crowd and be noticed. But the longer they evade arrest and assimilate into the society, the easier it will be for them to plan and carry out attacks.
Boko Haram terrorist attacks remain a major threat across Nigeria.