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Nigeria: Troops kill 16 ‘Boko Haram terrorists’ in Lake Chad area, MNJTF says

Troops from the regional Multinational Joint Task Force killed 16 Boko Haram fighters including a commander, in the Lake Chad area of Nigeria’s Borno state, the MNJTF said in a release.

Over the weekend, troops deployed with Operation Yancin Tafki were conducting clearance operation in the Kerenoa – likely meaning Kirenowa – area when “contact was made with Boko Haram Terrorists at Andakar Camp,” Colonel Timothy Antigha, the MNJTF’s Chief of Military Public Information, said in the Sunday, March 31 release that included graphic images of dead bodies.

A firefight followed and 16 militants including Malloum Moussa, who Antigha described as “a high ranking Boko Haram Commander,” were “neutralized,” a term commonly used to mean killed by security forces. Five technicals were destroyed and one woman “whose relationship with the terrorists is yet to be determined” was detained.

Antigha said Moussa had “jurisdiction” over the southern Lake Chad area including around Daban Masara, Kirta Wulgo and Koleram, and that he was “notorious for imposing hefty levies on farmers, fishermen and cattle herders.”

The MNJTF, which comprises troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, launched Operation Yancin Tafki on February 21. Antigha said it is aimed at “making islands and other settlements in Lake Chad untenable for Boko Haram Terrorists.”

Actions have been conducted in Nigeria and Niger as part of the operation.

On March 9, seven Nigerien police and 38 militants were killed near Gueskerou in the Diffa region, according to Niger’s defense ministry. The MNJTF said in a statement that “27 terrorists” were killed.

Across the border in Nigeria on March 12, aircraft from Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon supported by MNJTF ground troops killed 33 ISWA militants around Tumbun Rego and Arege, the regional force said. Aircraft from Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon were involved in those actions.

It is unclear which Boko Haram faction was targeted in the actions around Kirenowa, but Islamic State West Africa province is the dominant insurgent force in the Lake Chad area.

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One led by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa province.

The ISWA faction, which largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, was led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, but last month, audio recordings revealed that ISIS appointed Abu Abdullah Idris bin Umar, also known as Ibn Umar al-Barnawi, as leader. ISIS has not yet made a public statement confirming the change.

Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 but has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response. Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.

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