At least three Nigerian soldiers were killed when insurgents attacked a military base in Borno state, military and militia sources told AFP on Wednesday, May 22.
Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram on Monday evening attacked the base in the town of Gubio, around 80 km (50 miles) north of Borno state capital Maiduguri, firing heavy weapons and dislodging troops.
ISIS on Wednesday claimed that 20 Nigerian soldiers were killed when ISWAP fighters “took control” of the base. ISIS later released a video showing ISWAP attacks mainly in the Lake Chad area between November and January. The video appeared to also show the execution of nine people, including one tank crewman who was killed with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Gubio base attacked
“The terrorists attacked troops around 7 p.m. and forced them to withdraw after gunfight in which three soldiers were killed and six injured,” said a military officer who asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media. “We have six soldiers who are still missing.”
An armored personnel vehicle and a truck as well as weapons were looted by the jihadists, he said.
At least five militants were killed in a fightback with the support of troops from nearby locations, the officer said.
His account was supported by a militiaman fighting the jihadists alongside troops in the town who said that “terrorists dislodged troops manning a checkpoint” leading to the camp.
Citing a security source and a humanitarian worker, Reuters reported the insurgents attacked Gubio in technical vehicles – pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns – and on motorcycles.
The humanitarian worker said troops withdrew after a gun battle that lasted more than an hour, and they counted the bodies of more than 15 dead soldiers.
Yerwa Express reported a resident as saying the Gubio base was attacked from the Magumeri direction at around 6:30 p.m., and there were “intense gun exchanges with the military for more than an hour.”
Premium Times reported at least one soldier was killed, three others injured, and six were missing as of Tuesday night. According to the report, soldiers repelled “most of the Boko Haram attackers,” killing at least one and recovering some weapons.
Islamic State claims Gubio attack
In a Wednesday statement, Islamic State claimed fighters from its West Africa Province affiliate carried out the attack on the Gubio base, saying that it took place on Tuesday. ISIS claimed 20 soldiers were killed and others injured, and that vehicles, weapons and ammunition were captured.
ISIS propaganda agency Amaq published a similar release, including an image of what appears to be a captured police Otokar Cobra armored vehicle, saying that the ISWAP fighters “took control” of the base after a battle in which 20 Nigerian soldiers were killed. Other military personnel were wounded and the remainder fled, the release said, adding that an armored vehicle, two other military vehicles, and “large quantity of weapons and ammunition” were captured.
Amaq later released three images that it said were “part of the spoils” taken “after attacking the Nigerian army barracks in Borno,” without specifying a date or location. The images included one of a crew-cab type pickup truck, and two others that showed around two dozen assault rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and three machine guns, along with around 20 apparent ammunition boxes.
The Amaq release also noted that the “positions of the African coalition forces are constantly attacked by fighters of the Islamic State, in which the coalition armies have suffered heavy losses in the past months.”
String of ISWAP attacks north of Maiduguri
Since July last year, ISWAP has intensified attacks on military targets, killing dozens of soldiers and overrunning bases mainly in Lake Chad region in Nigeria, Chad and Niger where it is the dominant insurgent group
But in recent weeks, ISWAP fighters have attacked a number of military bases north of Maiduguri.
Daily Trust reported on May 17 that road closure time around Gubio had been extended from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to give local farmers more time to work on their land ahead of the rainy season. The overnight road closures had been instituted following insurgent attacks on towns and villages in the area.
On May 10, ISWAP fighters attacked Forward Operation Base Gajigana, around 44 km southeast of Gubio. ISIS claimed 11 soldiers were killed and others injured and the base was burned. The Nigerian Army later said that only two troops were injured in the attack, and that a number of militants were “exterminated.”
A week earlier, ISWAP militants overran a military base in Magumeri, around 40 km south of Gubio, holding it for several hours. Reinforcements from Gubio dislodged the insurgents, according to a militia leader. ISIS claimed that 10 soldiers were killed, and published images of what it said were ISWAP fighters attacking “Mamri.”
The Nigerian military seldom comments on the ongoing counter-insurgency operations, and tends to downplay the insurgents’ effectiveness, rarely acknowledging engagements and seemingly understating military casualties and equipment losses.
In one case, after ISWAP fighters attacked a Nigerian military base in Sabon Gari near Biu, around 135 km southwest of Maiduguri on April 26, the army described reporting on the incident as “unsubstantiated” and “fake,” saying it was the handiwork of “Boko Haram sympathizers.”
ISIS releases video showing ISWAP attacks and executions
Also on Wednesday, ISIS released a 21-minute propaganda video entitled “And Kill Them Wherever You Find Them.”
It was the first video featuring ISWAP the group has released since January, and showed attacks on military bases and the execution of nine people.
A total of 12 male captives appeared – nine army, navy and police personnel, two Civilian Joint Task Force militia members, and one man who said he was employed to dig trenches at a naval base. The service members identified themselves by name and number, and by the units to which they were deployed. Some said when and where they had been captured.
A group of eight people were shown being executed by gunshots to the head at point-blank range. One tank crewman, who said he was captured in Metele in November, was separately killed with a rocket-propelled grenade.
It was not clear when and where the executions were carried out.
The video featured extensive battle footage of attacks against military bases which appear to have been carried out between November and January, including attacks in Kareto, Arege and Baga in the Lake Chad area of Borno state, and in Geidam in Yobe state.
Two partially-up-armored pickup trucks were shown that appear to be suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, including one SVBIED that was captured by the Nigerian army in the Baga area in January.
The video also shows Grad rockets being launched from the ground on a makeshift frame. ISIS previously claimed ISWAP fighters in Niger targeted Diffa airport and military base with Grad rockets on April 8.
A wide range of military equipment that was captured in the attacks was shown, including trucks, armored vehicles, light tanks, artillery pieces, boats, and a massive quantity of ammunition.
Fighters were shown reaffirming their loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a number of militants gave speeches which referenced recent propaganda from ISIS urging patience and steadfastness.
The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its decade-long bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.
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 ISWAP faction, which largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, was led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, but in March, 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.
The Multinational Joint Task Force, a regional counter-insurgency force comprising personnel from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, launched Operation Yancin Tafki on February 21 to battle the insurgents. It has said the cross-border operation is aimed at “making islands and other settlements in Lake Chad untenable for Boko Haram Terrorists.”
Since 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region. On April 30, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan A. Sales said that the U.S. assesses that Boko Haram and ISWAP “have been responsible for over 35,000 deaths since 2011.”
With reporting from AFP