LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Despite counterterrorism operations, Boko Haram’s emphasis on cross-border attacks is not going away, according to new analysis released today by IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.
According to open-source data collected by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC), in 2014, Boko Haram carried out 22 cross-border attacks into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. In 2015, the year the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, 62 cross-border attacks took place. By the end of August 2016, JTIC recorded 41 cross-border attacks.
“Before Boko Haram allied with the Islamic State, it did carry out cross-border attacks outside their core territory of north eastern Nigeria,” said Matthew Henman, head of IHS JTIC. “But since 2015, the number of cross-border operations rose dramatically as the group retaliated against the West African coalition fighting to defeat them.”
False sense of security: Lull in Nigeria attack numbers
Nigeria’s 2016 attack figures are below the 2015 peak. But, analysis suggests the lull can be attributed to an organizational re-branding and evolution, driven by the Islamic State leadership in Syria and Iraq.
“For starters, the drop in fatalities was at least in part a consequence of a noticeable decrease in the incidence of indiscriminate suicide attacks,” Henman said. “Notably, the Islamic State’s media apparatus never publicised these operations, focusing on Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya attacks on the state and security forces, perhaps signalling its disapproval. Secondly, the enduring operational capabilities of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya were underlined in a noteworthy attack in Niger in June.”
Additionally, Henman believes attacks could actually rise in Nigeria due to a current leadership dispute between Boko Haram’s two main factions. “Shekau’s faction is more likely to continue indiscriminate violence against civilians and Barnawi’s more likely to focus on targeting the security forces and potentially the Christian population,” Henman said.
“The resumption of militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region over the past nine months is another concerning factor as Nigerian security forces will potentially be stretched across two fronts,” said Natznet Tesfay, director of Sub-Saharan Africa analysis at IHS Country Risk. “Similarly in Niger, the announced emergence of a new armed ethnic-Toubou group in early September raises concerns of increased insecurity across the Agadez and Diffa regions, particularly if ethnic militia and Islamist militant groups in these regions begin to cooperate.”
Niger: The next Boko Haram hotspot
According to data recorded from open sources by JTIC, half of Boko Haram’s attacks in Niger in 2016 have occurred since April. Bosso in particular has been a continuing target and nearby town of Yebi had come under fire from unidentified militants five times since mid-May.
On 3 June, a large force of Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya militants attacked a military base near the town of Bosso in Niger’s Diffa region, overrunning the base, killing at least 26 soldiers, and looting vehicles and substantial amounts of materiel, before briefly taking control of the town.
The gathering of a large attack force for the operation, as well as the way it was conducted – with tactics and an operational approach similar to that used by Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria – abruptly countered the narrative that Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya was on the run and with severely diminished capabilities.
“Consequently, it appeared more likely that Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya had undergone a centrally-directed development, focusing less on the indiscriminate killing of fellow Muslims and more on targeting regional security forces,” Henman said.
“Additionally, the Islamic State model is predicated upon the capture and maintenance of territory under the motto 'remaining and expanding,' something Boko Haram has not been entirely successful in doing since its pledge of allegiance was accepted in March 2015,” Henman said. “However, the apparent attempt and potential success in holding Bosso may be indicative of a renewed focus on this aspect in a new area of operations.”
The IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre uses open source data to build its global database of terrorist and insurgent events. The database enables users to search by location, target, group (active and dormant), tactics and casualty numbers in order to quickly obtain actionable intelligence and/or data. The database includes over 200,000 events since 2009 and over 250 group profiles. Information from social media that could not be verified through conventional and trusted news sources is not included in the data.
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