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ISLAMIST MILITANTS KILL 3 MULTINATIONAL JOINT TASK FORCE SOLDIERS IN NIGERIA

Martina Sclaverano, Emanuela Bulferetti, Arnold R. Koka, Sonia Savci, Agathe Labadi, Virginia Martos Blanco

Álvar Picón, Evan Beachler, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

May 14, 2023


Borno State, Nigeria[1]


Geographical Area | West Africa

Countries Affected | Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad


On May 14, 2023, Islamist militants used an explosive device to kill three Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) soldiers operating in Nigeria.[2] The situation in Nigeria must be monitored due to the potentiality of further attacks by Islamist groups, who will likely continue targeting national and international forces like the MNJTF, as well as critical infrastructure. The Islamist threat in the area affects the military, law enforcement, and local agriculture sectors, with significant outcomes for the overall regional stability. Terrorists’ need for light weapons will likely drive the expansion of illicit trade channels and arms’ proliferation, while the insecurity generated in rural areas will likely worsen food security and poverty. MNJTF countries’ cooperation will be crucial to provide an efficient response to the terrorist threat in the region and strengthen regional stability.


Security Risk Level:

Areas of High Security Concern: Islamist terrorist activity will likely continue in Nigeria. Insurgent groups will very likely continue to plant explosive devices to discourage national and international forces from intervening in Borno State, Nigeria. Islamist terrorists will likely target critical infrastructure like pipelines, roads, and wells. There is a roughly even chance that increased attacks will lead MNJTF member countries to withdraw their troops to protect their nationals temporarily. This decision would likely worsen the internal displacement of civilians in Borno State, as they will very likely be vulnerable to kidnappings, extortion, and exploitation without state authorities protecting them. Minorities and officials will likely become frequent targets, likely strengthening civilians’ fears.

Current Claims: Nigeria; Nigerian government; Nigerian civilians; Nigerian military; Niger; Niger government; Niger military; MNJTF; Benin; Cameroon; Chad; Islamist insurgents; Boko Haram; Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP); Ansaru

Current Conflicts: Nigeria has been facing an Islamist insurgency since 2009, with the rise of Boko Haram. The MNJTF formed by Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Chad, and Cameroon, has been tasked to deal with this terrorist threat since 2012. The Nigerian government allocated about $1 billion to fight this insurgency and killed several insurgents, although the Islamist-motivated attacks in Borno State did not stop since the implementation of these measures, since the area became the base of several Islamist/terrorist groups.[3]

Major Capital Industries: Military; weapon manufacturers; law enforcement; agriculture

Potential Industry Concerns: The MNJTF’s lack of funds and the member countries’ inability to agree on joint planning and intelligence sharing will likely hinder the mission’s effectiveness.[4] This will very likely lead to an increase in regional spillover of Islamist insurgents’ attacks, very likely deteriorating the humanitarian situation and damaging multiple industries. The terrorists’ destructive attacks will very likely impact agriculture, very likely worsening food security and poverty conditions in the region. Terrorist groups will likely use this to spread their ideology and increase their power.[5] Insurgents will likely create illicit channels to trade small arms and light weapons (SALWs) on a regional level to increase the efficiency of terrorist network engagement across the region.


Areas of Caution:

  • Geopolitical: During the post-independence period, Nigeria had a dominant role in the region, owing to its natural resources, high population, and a strong military, which allowed it to play a key role in aspects such as countering coups. Following decades of conflict, Nigeria started to lose its dominant security and political leadership position in the region. Internal security conflicts led to spillover through refugees and created a wider trend of insecurity and instability in neighboring West African countries.[6] This transnational nature of the Islamist terrorist threat and the concentration of attacks in the area surrounding Lake Chad, forces countries toward regional cooperation in counter-insurgency missions such as the MNJTF, and in sharing military resources and politically committing to joint efforts in combating terrorism.[7] [8]

  • Political: The Nigerian government has closed refugee camps and reduced support, forcing them to move to unsafe parts of the country and exposing civilians to Islamist rules and fighting areas. Despite the efforts of the Borno State governor, 2.5 million people remain uprooted from their homes, of which 1.8 million reside in Borno State.[9] Chad’s President Idriss Déby temporarily withdrew Chadian troops from participating in MNJTF operations in 2020, citing his dissatisfaction with the mission’s results in the region and the high fatalities among soldiers.[10] Déby then expressed confidence in MNJTF’s future results against insurgents, calling for a new strategic framework and more operations, signaling his leadership’s readiness to put political pressure on the mission to achieve strategic changes.[11] Corruption and lack of social services in all MNJTF countries are also exploited by terrorist groups to win support from the most vulnerable population. Nigeria's diverse security threats, including farmer violence, had driven the country to divert its focus from the terrorist threat over the years, allowing groups like Boko Haram to gain influence when the government prioritized other national issues.[12]

  • Military: The Nigerian military is mainly concentrated in “super camps” in the northeastern regions, leaving most of the territory vulnerable to Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa attacks.[13] Nigeria receives military support for counterterrorism operations through the MNJTF, which has about 10,000 troops.[14] Nigeria also works with the United States, whose joint efforts focus on maritime and border security, military professionalization, and counterterrorism efforts against Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa.[15] Many soldiers have also died during these operations fighting terrorist groups in the northeast, and the Force’s structural and technical incapacities likely contribute to their numbers.[16]

  • Economic: Economic and development challenges, such as macroeconomic instability, high inflation rates, monetization of the fiscal deficit, and high inequality, are prominent in the region, intensifying social instability.[17] Insurgent groups leverage these challenges to increase recruitment among the younger population.[18] Terror groups’ attacks on villages and rural communities worsen poor economic conditions and food insecurity in the region’s rural areas, during which they steal food and other supplies from local farmers.[19] Low Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the region is also almost certainly a cause of the region’s level of insecurity since the conflict started.[20]

  • Social: The humanitarian situation in the region is fragile, with a large part of the population affected by the conflict with terrorist groups, especially in Borno State.[21] Since 2009, insurgent groups in the region had killed approximately 350,000 people by the end of 2020.[22] In the first quarter of 2023, Boko Haram and ISWAP killed 272 civilians.[23] The intensifying security crisis led to an influx of refugees from Nigeria to Niger, worsening the situation.[24] Agricultural production in the region is affected by extreme weather conditions, which worsen food insecurity and economic conditions.[25] Income and opportunity inequality and high poverty rates remain significant problems that create social, political, and regional unrest.[26] These barriers are also reflected in education, which is characterized by gender-based marginalization.[27] This is part of a broader trend of gender-based issues stemming from terrorist presence in the region, with many women being raped, forced into religious conversion, and forced labor. Children are abducted, recruited, and exploited by these groups.[28]


Predictive Analysis:

  • Who: Islamist terrorist groups in Nigeria will likely start targeting Nigerian civilians together with MNJTF military personnel. Islamist groups will likely destroy schools and churches, and impose restrictions based on their interpretation of Islam. There is a roughly even chance Nigerian civilians will leave their homes to flee from the attacks, creating a migratory flux towards neighboring countries, such as Niger. There is a roughly even chance that Niger will manage to accommodate hundreds of people, building a proper management system.

  • What: Islamist groups will likely target rural communities and villages in the provinces surrounding Lake Chad, seizing food and basic supplies from the local population. Attacks will likely extend to critical infrastructure, mainly roads, and pipelines. Another concern likely encompasses Islamist groups targeting water and health facilities, power distribution stations, transformers, and also public structures such as offices and police posts. They will likely use improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs), bombings, armed assaults, assassinations, and kidnappings. Abduction and labor enforcement, violence against minorities, sexual abuse, and human trafficking are likely other methods of threatening and attacking civilians.

  • Why: Islamist groups are likely trying to replace the secular Nigerian state with an Islamic one. These groups likely attack military personnel and joint forces to reduce their power on the territory, take control of swaths of territory, and further expand their activities. Islamist groups will likely try to become more relevant on the regional scene, and they will likely exploit Nigeria and other countries part of the Lake Chad Basin’s economic, social, and security fallacies to establish a safe hub in the region to use as a launch pad for operations in other areas.

  • When: The attacks will likely continue imminently as Islamist groups exploit the havoc and fear they have created. The security threat will likely continue in the long term unless the MNJTF effectively intervenes to stop the threat. The newly elected Nigerian government will likely increasingly face poor control over areas where Islamist groups are active. The Nigerian military is likely unable to defeat Islamist groups in the short term as they exploit governance weaknesses, and access to certain parts of the country is limited.

  • How: Islamist groups will likely continue to threaten regional security. They will likely continue to exploit social, economic, and political challenges to widen their influence. Climate change will likely intensify these challenges, causing further displacement of civilians to neighboring countries and resulting in regional spillover. The insurgents’ transnational network will likely boost their ability to ensure consistent supplies of SALWs and IED production materials through diversified trafficking channels.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that humanitarian agencies provide immediate assistance with supplies such as food, water, healthcare products, and shelter through short-term settlements. Basic assistance should include psychosocial support to victims of gender-based violence and unaccompanied children. Humanitarian agencies and the Nigerian government should combine forces to help refugees and protect them from Islamist groups’ influence and manipulation. CTG recommends that MNJTF country members expand social services toward their most vulnerable population, focusing on rural communities, to prevent them from supporting terrorist groups that offer them social and economic protection.


CTG recommends MNJTF’s country members commit more troops to the mission and create a permanent intelligence-sharing framework on SALW trafficking in the Lake Chad Basin countries. Country members should also agree on common strategies to enhance their troops' cooperation in the field and share tactics, improving the MNJTF’s efficiency.

 

[2] Islamist insurgents kill three Nigerian, Niger troops, wound 12, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/islamist-insurgents-kill-three-nigerian-niger-troops-wound-12-2023-05-15/

[3] Nigeria to release $1 billion from excess oil account to fight Boko Haram, Reuters, December 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-idUSKBN1E821A

[4] What Role for the Multinational Joint Task Force in Fighting Boko Haram?, CrisisGroup, July 2020, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/291-what-role-multinational-joint-task-force-fighting-boko-haram

[5] Nigeria's security crises - five different threats, BBC, July 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-57860993

[6] Nigeria’s weakening hegemony in West Africa, Economist Intelligence, January 2022, https://www.eiu.com/n/nigerias-weakening-hegemony-in-west-africa/

[8] Multinational Joint Task Force: Security Cooperation in the Lake Chad Basin, ISPI, May 2023, https://www.ispionline.it/en/publication/multinational-joint-task-force-security-cooperation-lake-chad-basin-25448

[9] Rethinking Resettlement and Return in Nigeria’s North East, International Crisis Group, January 2023, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/nigeria/b184-rethinking-resettlement-and-return-nigerias-north-east

[10] Chad ends involvement in Boko Haram, Sahel anti-terrorism ops: President, AfricaNews, April 2020, https://www.africanews.com/2020/04/11/chad-ends-involvement-in-boko-haram-sahel-anti-terrorism-ops-president/

[11] MNJTF operations receives a boost, Multinational Joint Task Force, April 2020, https://mnjtffmm.org/mnjtf-operations-receives-a-boost/

[12] What Role for the Multinational Joint Task Force in Fighting Boko Haram?, Crisis Group, July 2020, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/291-what-role-multinational-joint-task-force-fighting-boko-haram

[13] Country Reports on Terrorism 2021: Nigeria, US Department of State, 2021 https://www.state.gov/reports/country-reports-on-terrorism-2021/nigeria/

[14] About the Force, Multinational Joint Task Force, May 2023, https://mnjtffmm.org/about/

[16] Nigeria: 367 Soldiers, 29 Policemen Killed in 2 Years By Boko Haram, Armed Bandits - Report, AllAfrica, November 2021, https://allafrica.com/stories/202111230029.html

[17] The World Bank in Nigeria, World Bank, March 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nigeria/overview

[18] Nigeria’s weakening hegemony in West Africa, Economist Intelligence Unit, January 2022, https://www.eiu.com/n/nigerias-weakening-hegemony-in-west-africa/

[19] Hunger grips Lake Chad Basin in the face of terrorism, Institute for Security Studies, September 2022, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/hunger-grips-lake-chad-basin-in-the-face-of-terrorism

[21] UNDP support to returning farmers in Borno and Adamawa States to boost agriculture output, United Nations Development Programme, July 2019, https://www.undp.org/nigeria/news/undp-support-returning-farmers-borno-and-adamawa-states-boost-agriculture-output

[22] Northeast Nigeria insurgency has killed almost 350,000 - UN, Reuters, June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/northeast-nigeria-insurgency-has-killed-almost-350000-un-2021-06-24/

[23] Nigeria: Extremism and Terrorism, Counter Extremism Project, 2023, https://www.counterextremism.com/countries/nigeria-extremism-and-terrorism

[25] Northeastern Nigeria-Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, Response Overview, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, November 2021, https://www.fao.org/3/cb6846en/cb6846en.pdf

[27] Education, UNICEF Nigeria, UNICEF, 2023, https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/education

[28] Nigeria: Boko Haram brutality against women and girls needs urgent response – new research, Amnesty International, March 2021, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2021/03/nigeria-boko-haram-brutality-against-women-and-girls-needs-urgent-response-new-research/

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