ISIS Ally Attacks Nigerian Army In Key Border City
Suicide Bomber Ignites Two-Hour Machine-Gun Battle
By Douglas Burton
September 17, 2019
Fr. Peter John Wumbadi, a Roman Catholic priest in Nigeria, could hear the roar of automatic gunfire when he phoned his friend. The Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram had invaded his friend’s neighborhood.
“I could hear AK-47 fire in the background and people shouting,” he told Zenger News from his parish in Michika, in Nigeria’s war zone.
The firefight lasted for nearly two hours. “I learned that a suicide bomber had blown himself up in the security checkpoint at the rear of the university,” he said. Then the shooting started. “The students were running out of their hostel [dorm] rooms in fear,” he said.
The terrorists had waded through a shallow, water-filled trench on the university’s edge, according to DefenseNews.com, prompting Borno Governor Babagana Umara Zulum to bring backhoes to deepen the trench the following day.
This marks the first time the city itself was invaded by Boko Haram terrorists in almost two years. The city of Maiduguri, at the center of the Islamic State-inspired insurgency, had seen pitched battles between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram in its outlying areas for the past 19 months. Now, they penetrated the central city.
Maiduguri, a Nigerian state capital, has been choked from a slowly tightening pincer movement by two converging rival insurgent groups, the Islamic State of West African Province attacking in its northern and western zones and Boko Haram on the southeastern flanks. The Boko Haram faction is headed by Abubakar Shekau, who was disavowed by ISIS because of his frequent attacks on civilians in mosques and open-air markets.
Boko Haram, which translates into English as “Western learning is forbidden,” surfaced in 2009 and has taken the lives of 39,000 people, according to New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.
The Syria-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria designated Boko Haram as the Islamic State of West Africa Province group in 2016. The group has earned its place in the ISIS world by recruiting fighters and launching attacks (often with heavy weapons) in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
Nigerian soldiers frequently complain of being outgunned and lacking bullets, artillery shells, and armored vehicles, according to clergy minister to Nigerian soldiers in the war zones of the Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa.
“The young boys sent to fight Boko Haram are doing their best,” says a prominent clergyman in the city, who asked not to be named for fear of being targeted. “Not only the Nigerian Army, even local vigilantes carrying ‘dane guns’ [homemade rifles], have been drafted into the fight” against terrorists.
A combined force of the 22nd Brigade of Nigeria’s Army, supported by locals, cleared the Gworege community north of Maiduguri of terrorists on September 6– recovering six AK-47 rifles without taking any losses.
Such advances are offset by a series of attacks by the Islamic State of West Africa Province north of the Nigerian state capital of Maiduguri. Islamic radicals stole armored personnel carriers, trucks and a mobile cannon from the Nigerian army when it overran the Nigerian military base at Gubio, some 40 miles north of Maiduri, on August 10. This forced the Nigerian army to abandon its base, opening a 90-mile corridor from Maiduguri city to the border with Niger– a wide swath where Islamic terrorists can now travel freely.
“The Nigerian crisis has spread throughout the Lake Chad region, making it an urgent priority for the United States to lend assistance with a regional solution”, said Stephen Enada, the founder of the non-profit International Committee on Nigeria. “The region requires a special envoy from the United States who would bring with him a powerful team of military and intelligence specialists as well as development aid,” he adds. “The fact is, the elite U.S. media have focused on the fight to quash ISIS in Syria, whereas ISIS in Nigeria controls territory in three states and has murdered more people than ISIS did in Iraq,” said Enada. “What is often missed is that Nigeria has a third and more deadly insurgency in its Middle Belt, the radicalized Fulani terrorists, who have murdered tens of thousands of defenseless civilians during the last 20 years. The weight of the Nigerian military is invested in the Northeastern states, whereas the Fulani bandit terrorists, attacking with impunity, have wiped out hundreds of church communities, effectively forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians into internally displaced person’s camps.”
Enada predicts that within a few years, waves of refugees will be streaming toward the West.
“I don’t want to say that Boko Haram is winning against the army,” Fr. Wumbadi said. “But it is almost a stalemate.”
Douglas Burton is a former U.S. State Department official in Kirkuk, Iraq and writes news and commentary from Washington, D.C.