The counter-insurgency operation against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Northeast appears to have suffered a major military setback with Agence France-Presse, (AFP) reporting the insurgents overrunning a military base in the area after engaging Nigerian troops in a ferocious firefight last night. The AFP story which is already appearing everywhere involved the invasion of 81st Division Forward Brigade at Jilli village in Geidam District, a base on Saturday night, according to an anonymous military source.
The attack is being traced to the Abu-Mus’ab Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram said to be known for targeting Nigerian forces. AFP’s sources ably gave it precise figures such as the number of troops at the base that was attacked. The number was put at 734 troops from which the commander and 63 soldiers have made it to safety in Geidam while 670 more are being expected to do so.
Neither the Nigerian military nor the Federal Government has said anything yet on the second attack on Nigerian troops in two days, a development which s is being interpreted as a major dent on the claim of having degraded Boko Haram by the government of the day if Boko Haram can still take the Nigerian military head on and sustain an assault for two hours, 7. 30 pm – 9. 10 pm. This is more so that 23 soldiers have been reported to have been lost in the Friday attack.
The insurgent believed to have driven into attack positions from Lake Chad through Gubio in nearby Borno state and numbering around 100 are said to have “overwhelmed” the Nigerian troops although eye witnesses said they did not know exactly the details of what happened.
Yan St-Pierre, counter-terrorism advisor and head of the Berlin-based Modern Security Consulting Group who spoke to AFP hypothesised the attacks may not be unconnected with power contestation for control of the faction led by Abubakar Shekau, said to be ill. According to the interviewee, “When a near-mythical leader is on his way out there’s always a battle to establish who could be next”.
To that is added what is called the overstretched and under-resourced situation of the Nigerian Army as against plenitude of supply of Boko Haram fighters, either through kidnapping or those driven by poverty into that life-world” St-Pierre said.