At least two Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ambush carried out by Boko Haram jihadists targeting a civilian convoy close to the border with Cameroon, military and militia sources told AFP on Friday, January 4.
Militants opened fire on a convoy of traders under military escort outside a village near the northeastern town of Banki on Thursday, killing two soldiers and injuring seven traders, according to the sources.
“The [Boko Haram] terrorists ambushed the convoy around 6:00 p.m. [1700GMT] as it approached Banki and killed two of the soldiers providing cover for the convoy,” a military officer said.
“The attackers fired indiscriminately and seven civilians were injured,” the officer said.
The fighters seized a truck belonging to a humanitarian organisation during the ambush, but the driver managed to escape, according to a militia member in Banki, who gave a similar toll.
A militia member said the seized truck belonged to Intersos, an NGO representing the World Food Programme in Banki.
Lying on the Cameroon border around 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri, Banki houses 45,000 people displaced by the Boko Haram conflict who live in a sprawling camp that opened in 2015 following raids on villages in the area.
Traders from Banki travel to Maiduguri twice a week under military escort to bring in supplies.
Insurgents continue to launch sporadic attacks in the town and ambush troops on the highway.
It was unclear which Boko Haram faction was responsible for Thursday’s attack.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016 over ideological differences. One, led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, while the other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Shekau has pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central gave its formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa Province.
On November 9, Shekau claimed a series of attacks in northeast Nigeria, including a November 4 attack on Nigerian soldiers in Kumshe village, near Banki. But two days earlier, ISIS also claimed that the attack was carried out by ISWA fighters.
The previous month, two Nigerian soldiers were killed when troops on foot patrol were struck by a mine near Kumshe.
Surge in Boko Haram attacks
ISWA has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching a number of attacks in Borno and neighboring Yobe state amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders.
There have been dozens of attacks on military bases since July, mainly in the Lake Chad area further north. The majority have been blamed on ISWA, or claimed by ISIS as ISWA attacks.
Last week, fighters from the ISWA faction of Boko Haram overran military bases near Baga near Lake Chad. Troops from the two bases – a Multinational Joint task Force post staffed by troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and a naval base – withdrew to another naval base at Fish Dam. That base was later attacked by ISWA fighters, prompting a Nigerian military offensive earlier this week that included a series of airstrikes.
ISWA fighters also attacked nearby military locations in Cross-Kauwa, Kukawa, Kekeno and Bunduram villages, and made three unsuccessful attempts to overrun Monguno, security and civilian sources told AFP, .
Borno and Yobe states, along with nearby Adamawa state, have born the brunt of nine years of violence that has claimed 27,000 lives and forced 1.8 million people to flee their homes. The conflict has also spilled over into Nigeria’s northern neighbors Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
The recent surge in Boko Haram attacks has increased pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat the Islamists and has repeatedly said they are virtually defeated. His administration wants to show it is winning the fight against Boko Haram ahead of a presidential election in February at which he will seek a second term in office.
With reporting from AFP