Experts in terrorism reporting would argue that it is not in all cases that denying publicity to terrorist exploits is a good strategy. The hinge for the argument is that a good counter-insurgency strategy must also know how to use media reporting of terrorist exploits to mobilise against terrorists.
Boko Haram shooting at UN humanitarian helicopter is one exploit such experts would say is deserving of mediation because of its tactical and strategic significance as for it to amount to creating a false sense of security in glossing over it.
Surface-to-air missiles might not be such a terrific technology at this point but it has its mystique, especially when it is a terrorist group now deploying it at a UN target. The literature on recent arms movement from the post Gaddafi chaos in Libya down to West Africa suggests it is completely within the reach of fronts such as Boko Haram. After all, only 5000 out of the 20, 000 of such weapons some anti-war NGOs believe to have existed under Gaddafi were ever destroyed.
Irrespective of which target the terrorists were looking for, was their ability to bring a humanitarian helicopter belonging to the UN system within firing range not a statement in psychological warfare, combat and a message to the world?. Choosing a UN target makes it a message to the world as well an advertisement of capability as it might have been no more than a margin of error problem that they did not bring down the aircraft or succeed in killing the crew.
What is not lost on the world is UN suspension of further deliveries, a crucial component of the restoration of the war ravaged space.
Observers are reading an obvious and deliberate showcasing of capability in Boko Haram’s use of surface-to-air missiles, (SAM) to hit at the UN plane. Perhaps, Boko Haram has done worse things before with all manner of technology of war but now, the question is, who gets SAM and uses next in a season of multiple criminality?
The assumption is that the Federal Government and the military will take this as a turning point in the counter-insurgency operation deserving of a decisive push, not only in combat terms but even more importantly in terms of a re-mediation of this campaign beyond whatever is being done now!
After all, a COIN is an international operation by its very nature in the current situation.