Nigerian Army Otokar Cobra APC on JSTF urban counterterrorism and counterinsurgency patrols

Nigerian Army Otokar Cobra APC on JSTF urban counterterrorism and counterinsurgency patrols

By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis

On Nov. 25, Boko Haram, an Islamist
militant group from northern Nigeria,
attacked a church in Jaji, Kaduna state,
using two suicide bombers during the
church’s weekly religious service. The first bomb detonated in a vehicle driven into the church, and the second detonated approximately 10 minutes later, when a crowd of first responders gathered at the scene. About 30 people were killed in the attacks; the second blast caused the majority of the deaths.

The incident was particularly symbolic because Jaji is the home of Nigeria’s Armed Forces Command and Staff College, and many of the churchgoers were senior military officers. In the wake of the Jaji attacks, media reports quoted human rights groups saying that Boko Haram has killed more people in 2012 than ever before.

The group has killed roughly 770 people this year, leading many to conclude that Boko Haram has become more dangerous. However, it is important to look beyond the sheer number of fatalities when drawing such conclusions about a group like Boko Haram.

Indeed, a less cursory look at the group reveals that while 2012 has been a particularly deadly year, the Nigerian government has curtailed the group’s capabilities. In terms of operational planning, the group has been limited to simple attacks against soft targets in or near its core territory. In other words, Boko Haram remains deadly, but it is actually less capable than it used to be, relegating the group to a limited,regional threat unless this dynamic is
somehow altered.

Boko Haram’s Rise

Boko Haram, Hausa for “Western
Education is Sinful,” was established in
2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state. It has since spread to several other northern and central Nigerian states. Its official name is “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,” Arabic for “Group Committed to Propagating the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.”

While Boko Haram is a relatively new
phenomenon, Nigeria has struggled with militant Islamism for decades. For example, the “Maitatsine” sect, led by
Mohammed Marwa, fomented violence in the early 1980s in the very same cities
that Boko Haram is presently active.Initially, Boko Haram incited sectarian
violence and attacked Christians with
clubs, machetes and small arms. But by
2010, the group had added Molotov
cocktails and simple improvised explosive devices to its arsenal.

In 2011, Boko Haram made a major operational leap when it unexpectedly began to use large suicide vehicle bombs. They were used first in the botched attack against the national police headquarters in Abuja in June 2011, and they were later used in the more successful attack against a U.N.
compound in Abuja in August 2011.

The leap from simple attacks in Boko
Haram’s core areas to sophisticated
attacks using large vehicle bombs in the
nation’s capital skipped several steps in
the normal progression of militant
operations. The group’s progression suggested that it had received outside
training or assistance. The sudden
increase in operational capacity appeared to have corroborated reports circulating at that time of Boko Haram militants attending training camps run by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

This rapid progression, which came in the wake of a Nigerian operative being
involved in al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula’s plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner, led to a concern that Boko Haram had the capability and the intent to become the next transnational jihadist franchise capable of threatening the United States and Europe. These fears were further stoked by warnings from the U.S. government in November 2011 that Boko Haram was planning to attack Western hotels in Abuja.

Dynamic Changes

To counter the perceived growing Boko
Haram threat, the Nigerian government,
aided by intelligence and training
provided by the United States and its
European allies, launched a major
offensive against the group.

Since January, the government has arrested or killed several leaders of Boko Haram, disrupted a number of cells and
dismantled numerous bombmaking
facilities. In addition to government
efforts, there has been a grassroots backlash against Boko Haram, as
evidenced by the formation of anti-Boko
Haram militant group Jama’atu Ansarul
Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan or “Supporters of Muslims in the Lands of Sudan,” commonly known as Ansaru.

Boko Haram has lashed out viciously
against these countermeasures. From
June to August, the group conducted nine suicide bombings, mostly directed against churches and police or military targets in its home territory. Since August, the operational tempo of its suicide bombings has slowed to about one attack a month.

Boko Haram operatives have also conducted a number of armed attacks and non-suicide bombing attacks. Many of these were directed against churches and police or military targets,but several of them were also directed against mosques that denounced Boko Haram. Despite warnings that Boko Haram would target Western hotels in Abuja, the group has not attacked an international target since the U.N.
building in August 2011.

Boko Haram activity has remained heavily concentrated in its core areas with occasional operations in Abuja. There have been only two Boko Haram attacks in Abuja in 2012: a large suicide vehicle bombing attack against a newspaper office in April and a small bombing attack against a nightclub in June. It appears that the group’s ability to conduct large attacks in Abuja has been constrained by government operations.

Tactically, Boko Haram’s attacks in 2012
have focused almost exclusively on soft
targets. Even its attacks against military
and police targets have been directed
against police on patrol or isolated police stations with little security or have been a target like the church at the military base in Jaji.

So while Boko Haram progressed rapidly
in terms of operational ability in 2011, it
is still struggling to conduct sustained
operations outside its core geographic
territory, and it has yet to successfully
strike a hardened target. Even the August 2011 attack against the United Nations, while demonstrating some geographic reach and a focus on an international target, was directed against a relatively soft target instead of a harder target like a government ministry building or a foreign embassy. It is also notable that the group has not conducted an attack in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, or in Niger, Chad or Cameroon, which are all closer to the Boko Haram home territories than Lagos.

However, in Nigeria, the use of militant
proxies has long been part of the political process. Just as Niger Delta politicians have used groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta for their own purposes, politicians in Nigeria’s northeast have supported and used Boko Haram. In fact, an alleged senior member of the group was arrested at the home of a Nigerian senator in Maiduguri in October 2012, and a previous governor of Borno state is allegedly a sponsor of the group.

This type of political and financial support means that despite the efforts of the central government, the group will not be easily or quickly eradicated. Any serious
attempt to curtail the group will require a political solution, which will be highly unlikely during the next two years due to the usefulness of such proxies in the lead-up to Nigerian national elections in early 2015. Therefore, the central government’s options will be limited. The best it can hope for is to continue to pursue the group to contain it and limit its reach and lethality.

Certainly, Boko Haram retains the
capability to kill people, especially in attacks against vulnerable targets on its home turf. But as long as the Nigerian government maintains pressure on the group and as long as the group remains on the defensive, Boko Haram is unlikely to be able to further develop its operational capabilities and pose an existential threat to the Nigerian government — let alone become a transnational terrorist threat.


About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies


  1. wocon45 says:

    Here is my take,
    “Certainly, Boko Haram retains the
    capability to kill people, especially in attacks against vulnerable targets on its home turf. But as long as the Nigerian government maintains pressure on the group and as long as the group remains on the defensive, Boko Haram is unlikely to be able to further develop its operational capabilities and pose an existential threat to the Nigerian government — let alone become a transnational terrorist threat.”

  2. beegeagle says:

    Well, tis QED all over again.

    Compare this dispassionate assessment to the run-of-the-mill drivel produced by charlattans masquerading as journalists and analysts who are pushing their own narrow agenda, latching onto convenient even if incongruent stereotypes, to vent their frustrations on the Nigerian nation and people. Such would report the conflict with made-up minds rather than on the strength of a day-to-day observation of the ebb and tide of the conflict. If BH are so strong, why have they not managed to seize on town ala Mali or Somalia?

    Ab initio, we maintained that in CTCOIN operations, there is an insecapable learning curve which an army MUST go through before it begins to turn the corner and that it can be fast-tracked but not circumvented. It is made worse by the fact that the first suicide attacks ever to be staged anywhere across West and Central Africa are happening here inside the Nigerian behemoth and as such, there is no script to be followed. We urged you to discountenance the rants of people from countries who do not get to witness a riot in a whole year but would pontificate from their sleepy corners about how Nigerian forces should handle terrorism and insurgency which they do not have the foggiest idea bout beyond listening to skewed western media reports beamed to Africa.


    We stated copiously about the fact that information was being manipulated by minions of the upcountry media and certain Hausa language radio services with a clear plan of undermining the gains made by the JSTF. The misinformation is geared towards influencing outcomes by stampeding the FG into a dialoguw with terrorists so that collaborators in the intelligentsia, media, ‘activists’ and political class can be left off the hook in the name of an amnesty. This has become all the more pertinent as the noose tightens around the necks of these workers of iniquity.

    We have stated previously that one is impressed at the speed with which the Nigerian defence and security forces have adapted to this new challenge posed by terrorists, one-and-a-half years down the line and that it has been a very rapid learning curve.

    Well, more reality checks shall come as we go forward. In the meantime, we shall continue to tell the real story. Well done, STRATFOR.

  3. beegeagle says:

    Elsewhere, Beegeagle wrote



    Everyday that I examine the dynamics of this conflict, I am reassured that we are making much faster progress than I ever imagined possible.

    In my assessments, I use the trajectory of the Algerian Islamist insurgency to draw my own conclusions.

    – The Algerian Islamist insurgency as championed by the GIA(Armed Islamic Group) commenced in 1992; Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency as currently defined(2009 was an uprising) kicked off with the attack on the Bauchi Prison in September 2010 with the Xmas 2010 bombings in Jos and at the mammy markets in Bauchi and Abuja as the highpoints of that first phase.

    – Five to six years after the Algerian insurgency commenced in 1997-8, the GIA were still on the ascendancy. At that time, there were several episodes of the throats of people in entire villages being slit in overnight terror attacks, sometimes as much as 800 persons killed in one night ! ; in Nigeria and less than one-and-one-half years after the 2010 start of the Islamist insurgency, we have crossed the tipping point of the most violent phase of the conflict namely, the January 2012 attacks in Kano which claimed 185 lives. The terrorists have been weakened. Even Reuters have acknowledged this fact severally in their reports.

    – At the height of the Islamist insurgency in Algeria, suicide bombings never attained the crescendo which Boko Haram have foisted on Nigeria.

    – After a decade-and-half of conflict in Algeria, mothers were still marching weekly to demonstrate against forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of young men in Algeria; there is nothing peculiar about anything concerning CTCOIN ops in Nigeria – heavy handed or not.

    45 years after the occupation commenced, mighty Israel with its superlative intelligence gathering machinery and hi-tech security forces have not ended the restiveness in Gaza. In 2008-9, 1400 Palestinians were killed for the loss of 30 persons in Gaza in a brutal crackdown such as has never happened in Nigeria. Racism aside – read, stereotypes of the black, brawny and inept brute projected, Nigeria have coped too well in the face of the BH challenge. It is just the case that the average Western commentator writing about any African conflict is a compromised airhead whose views are badly tainted by racial prejudice and scracely disguised contempt.

    What has happened in Nigeria which the Western media and HR groups are yapping about? In 2008-9, Israel carried out F16 jet strikes and 175mm SP artillery barrages into the fully built-up urban sprawl that is Gaza. Have Nigeria ever used jets or artillery in the ongoing CTCOIN ops? Our most malevolent critics such as the BBC actually refused to broadcast an innocuous appeal for funds intended for RELIEF aid for the victims of that Gaza crackdown of 2008-9 so as not to offend Israel. With Nigeria and Algeria, why are they are so flippant about abuses? HYPOCRISY and RACISM?

    – Imagine for a minute that Nigeria it was which was undertaking the military action which the Israelis are currently pursuing in Gaza? What would the Western media be saying?

    – The FG should continue to crack down on terrorists, taking care to minimise civilian casualties and to show a benevolent disposition, hard as it is, towards the conniving locals in the conflict zones. We shall yet overcome.

    – All said, Algeria have all but triumphed over the terrorists after 20 years. In percentage terms, the threat posed by terrorists has been brought down to between 15% and 20%, DOWN from a dizzying 90% in 1997-98.




  4. beegeagle says:

    READ THIS(our comments) to get a clearer picture of the elaborate media gang-up upcountry which is aimed at discrediting and distracting the JSTF


    In the comments, we attacked Bala Ibrahim of BBC Hausa, did we not? Well, TEN YEARS AGO, he was already under attack for skewed reportage



    Whether you believe us or not, we have strength in our convictions.

  5. beegeagle says:

    Elsewhere, Beegeagle wrote


    They are wasting their time, Odion.

    The JSTF and STF are going nowhere until peace…perfect peace reigns in the Far North and on the Jos Plateau. It is as simple as that. In any case, there is absolutely nothing peculiar about the situation in the North as far as deployments go. Did the British not similarly deploy soldiers for CTCOIN operations in Northern Ireland during the IRA insurgency? Did America in Iraq and even now in Afghanistan, India in Kashmir, Pakistan in the SWAT Valley, The Philippines in Mindanao, Thailand in the Far South around Pattani Province, Colombia against the FARC and Peru against the Shining Path guerrillas not all deploy the military for CTCOIN ops?

    Back to Nigeria, IF the JSTF Commander is a Christian southerner who supposedly does not understand the culture of the people in the conflict zones, there is a precedent to that in the Niger Delta conflict where at the time of the Amnesty, the JTF Commander was also a Muslim northerner. Is there any evidence to show that he knew and understood the cultures of the Niger Delta peoples any better?

    As we speak and looking around the 82 Div AOR which covers practically all of the South East and South South zones, including the Niger Delta, 2 Amphibious Brigade, 14 Infantry Brigade and 13 Amphibious Brigade and 34 Field Artillery Brigade are all commanded by Muslim northerners.That leaves only two brigade-sized formations of 82 Div namely, 44 Div NA Engrs and 82 Div HQ Garrison unaccounted for and there is nothing to prevent them being muslim northerners either. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not there is anything unheard of as it concerns the choice of Force Commander, Sector Commanders and troops of the JSTF in the Far North as to warrant the campaign of calumny against the JSTF.

    So what is the hue and cry about Christian southerners deployed for JSTF duties in the Far North all about?

    So WHAT is unprecedented or unheard of about the high profile roles given to Christian southerners such as General Ewansiha and Colonel Ebhaleme in the JSTF in the distant Northeast?

    There are military checkpoints in Borno, Kano, Kaduna. So are there checkpoints in Warri, Port Harcourt, Bonny and elsewhere in the Niger Delta and they even have snap boat searches being conducted in the 3014 creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta by gunboat crews of the Joint Task Force. There are also military houseboats(floating outposts, that is) scattered around the Niger Delta.

    So what is peculiar about the presence, personnel pooled, tactics or deployment of the JSTF in Greater Borno? The naysayers need to keep quiet and cease colloborating with terrorists by night while feigning innocence by day.

    End of quote


  6. wocon45 says:

    @ Gen Beege after going through your recent posts, plus what has been playing in my mind, i have no doubt we are making a head way. If anyone thinks they can keep saying BS in order to discredit us, then that’s their own palaver. We survived a civil war /sanctions/ media onslaughts…..they list goes on and on. If my back in the days biology class on evolution is any thing to go by, then i think we are on to something. Slowly but steadily we are evolving into something much bigger than we are right now, a larger force to be reckoned with. This is what they see and it scares the sh*t out of them….”Seeth thou man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men.”…..God bless the federal republic of Nigeria . 🙂

  7. beegeagle says:

    Yeah, we shall overcome. As long ago as Q1 2012, we predicted, making allowance for the training of CTCOIN troops and gains in combat experience, that BH shall be in utter disarray by the end of 2013 but no sooner..because we must go through that learning curve which can only be fast-tracked but not circumvented.

    We are on course.

  8. beegeagle says:

    The clear difference in this useful work is that it refrains from lazy extrapolation

    – corruption is a problem in Nigeria. Nothing, not even CTCOIN operations, will work until corruptiom is eradicated

    – stereotypes which see the whole but never takes into cognisance particular events and circumstances

    This is the reason why the average clueless Western journalist never ceases to refer to some ‘expert’. It removes the moral responsbility for the drivel which most of them spew and passes on same to the unsuspecting ‘expert’ who is invariably a web surfer with a hard-earned PhD but who has no toehold in the reality on the ground.

    This week, against the grain of the stereotype which creates the impression that no economic growth can take place in the face of security challenges, it emerged that fashion, movie and real estate have emerged as unheralded drivers of an economic boom in Nigeria.

  9. jake says:

    I agree Nigeria is making headway against BH, but what about the issue of BH in northern Mali/border regions. If BH gets chased out of Nigeria will they merge with other militants in the region and become someone else’s problem? Or will they – in a best case scenario – be eliminated and weakened in Nigeria and that’s the end? Other groups like the IMU got chased out of Uzbekistan but has existed in AfPak for 10 yrs still hassling NATO/Afghan/Pakistani troops… could this be the future of BH if it can’t operate in Nigeria? In a worst case scenario, BH could use bases outside Nigeria to attack Nigeria but in that case it would be more pure terrorism than insurgency I suppose.

    • jimmy says:

      BH has already mutated once already with the moderate wing already being wiped out/ captured/ arrested. The hardline faction is what is what is operating right now between Mali Cameroon and Nigeria. The other(3rd) faction is simply into armed robbery , stealing from BANKS and murder for Hire.
      Nigeria as a policy needs to do what America did1) HOLLOW OUT the leadership go from the little guy and keep climbing the tree, The key is to get SHEKAU dead or alive it makes no difference , what will happen afterward is the crumbling of the leadership .2)
      Insert special forces in Mali / Cameroon to go after the leadership at the rear end bases to take them out, this is because it is practically impossible to secure those borders due not only to logistical problems but the FINANCIAL/ETHNIC AND CULTURAL links that all these countries share with Nigeria ( Hausa, Fulani,Kanuri) and the extensive cattle business that goes on 4) Prosecute those in Nigeria who have been found TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO BOKO HARAM i am not talking about the mindless foot soldier i AM TALKING ABOUT THE senator() fill in the blanks.

  10. makanaky says:

    @jake let BH be chased out of Nigeria fine by me ! most of the countries around us are mute and silent at moment except for Niger, Let them continue to seat on the fence and assume its not their problem.
    Nigeria has the resources to combact this evil but they shall be consumed unless they act now by collaborating with Nigeria,a word is enough for the wise BH is evil or is a cancer that needs vigorous plus deep surgical operation.

  11. beegeagle says:

    Like I always say, Jake, at the core of BH is a kernel of diehard ideologues who transcend frontiers and believe that they can make a dent such as would impact the lives of muslims across the world. This transnational jihadist mindset was precisely what underpinned the participation of BH guerrilllas in the seizure of Gao in northern Mali.

    As it is, BH goons have been spotted in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali. They have been arrested in the Far North of Cameroon, in the Diffa Prefecture in Niger and have been seen in Mali. They are already out there. Suffice to say that those who are outside Nigeria are almost certainly loyal to the jihadist faction who have shown themselves willing to undertake transnational expeditions. These are Shekau’s men and they drive the business.

    To that extent, if BH get weakened to the point of impotence in Nigeria, they shall certainly join forces with loose cannons in the Sahel – AQIM, MUJAO and Ansar Dine for two reasons. Firstly, for the purpose of advancing their violent cause and secondly, to stave off a potentially brutal crackdown at home. So they shall seek refuge outside, hope to rebuild and regain strength for a possible re-entry into Nigeria, nurture alliances by applying themselves to foreign jihadist causes and make money by joining the kidnap and drug cartels of the Sahel.

    When ex-President Obasanjo visited the late Mohammed Yusuf’s home in September 2011 following which the man’s brother-in-law was on hand to receive him, Fugu said to him that over a third of their members fleeing a security clampdown, had fled into Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Fugu was shot dead 48 hours later, aged 48.

    The point to note is that if these itinerant terrorists clustered around the Diffa Prefecture of Niger and the Far North Region of Cameroon cannot contduct business as usual inside Nigeria, they shall head to Mali and regroup there, causing security headaches for Niger and Mali in particular.

    This reality is already well known to the governments of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. That was why Cameroon and Niger signed bilateral security agreements with Nigeria. It is clear that, at some point, they expect to be impacted concretely by way of attacks or clashes with security forces. For her part, Chad have already been calling for a collaborative security effort by nations of the Lake Chad Basin Commission with a view to combating the transnational effects of the BH insurgency.

    That would not be anything new. In the early 1990s, it was the spillover effect of the Chadian Wars occasioned by the exertions of straying insurgents preying on remote border villages in Niger and Nigeria, which precipitated the formation of the Multinational Joint Task Force by Niger, Chad and Nigeria. That effort continues to this day, with the Nigerian outpost stationed at Baga on the shores of the Lake Chad.

  12. beegeagle says:

    Read these, Jake.







    You might recall that Mamman Nur, the purported mastermind of the UN House bombings is believed to be a Cameroonian who has since escaped to his country while, at the time of the 2009 uprising, the deputy leader and chief logistician of the group was said to have been a certain Abubakar Kilakam, a Nigerien national from Diffa Prefecture.

    It has never been in doubt that from the beginning, BH had rear bases and supply lines originating from Diffa Prefecture. Perhaps that explains Kilakam’s role as chief logistician back then and of course, the setting up of their first encampment in the desert community of Kanamma in Yobe State, one mile shy of the border with Niger was clearly aimed at having their people outwitting the security measures emplaced by both countries – slipping back and forth across the border and getting supplies from Diffa Prefecture

  13. beegeagle says:

    D-E-S In reply to jimmy .

    (Quote @Jimmy….”2) Insert special
    forces in Mali / Cameroon to go after
    the leadership at the rear end bases to
    take them out, this is because it is
    practically impossible to secure those
    borders due not only to logistical problems but the FINANCIAL/ETHNIC
    AND CULTURAL links that all these
    countries share with Nigeria ( Hausa,
    Fulani,Kanuri) and the extensive cattle
    business that goes on

    4) Prosecute those in Nigeria who have been found TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO BOKO HARAM i am not talking about the mindless foot soldier i AM TALKING ABOUT THE senator() fill in the blanks”…(End quote)

    …We are so close to a common understanding, so close…but I still don’t
    see how and why we need to follow
    American policies and procedures,
    considering we are dealing with vastly
    different cultural-socio-economic-
    political mechanisations, not only that…this is our home, we are hardly
    expeditionary!!…so brothers please,
    let’s stop regurgitating idiocentric-
    expedite policies that reflect a hint of
    tactics, but hold no candle to strategic
    rationale I have read persons infer to the favouritism or ‘blind-eying’ of Israel’s apparent illegitimate treatment of Gaza…Yes I do have my own opinions
    in regards, but I won’t talk about those
    today. I once spoke to a great thinker (in my opinion) and I recall thinking at
    the time how arrogant, that…”Israel
    has no Generals, Politicians, Diplomats,
    lawyers, economists, pacifists or soldiers, they are all rolled in one…and
    it’s common!!!”….

    These was the lot that designed,developed and up scaled our understanding of the processes of the
    “political-firewall”. In Israel they have
    a process of thinking, deliberating and
    acting on, there are no significant
    exploitative gaps of understanding such informs their policies however you
    think or feel of them. That is the tenant
    of differences between the belligerent,
    it’s all in their relative understanding
    of key political factors…..where are we
    in comparison?!!

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