Security Brief: AFRICOM Week of June 14, 2021
Week of Monday, June 14, 2021 | Issue 34
Niall Paltiel, AFRICOM Team
Satellite picture of Mogadishu, Somalia from NASA
Location: Kwamdi Village, Damboa Local Government Area, Borno State, Nigeria
Parties involved: Nigerian army, Nigerian government, ISWAP terrorists
The event: The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) assaulted a military base in Kwamdi village, Damboa Local Government Area of Borno state on Tuesday. Damboa is located in Southern Borno roughly 87km from Maiduguri, the state capital. According to Sahara Reporters, three soldiers were killed during the attack while about seven members of ISWAP died. No civilians were reportedly killed during the assault. ISWAP also stole military weapons and equipment during the attack.
With this most recent attack on the Nigerian military, ISWAP is further demonstrating that its strength and power in Borno state is expanding. The inability of Nigerian forces to effectively rout ISWAP from the region as well as the ability of ISWAP to attack the Nigerian army within its bases further highlights that the balance of power in the region is increasingly swinging towards ISWAP.
The lack of civilian deaths in the assault is an outlier in traditional ISWAP attack patterns. Whilst normally ISWAP would enter a populated area and execute as many civilians as possible, the recent trend has seen the terrorist group increasingly solely target military personnel. This could potentially be a new strategy by ISWAP to consolidate its hold on the Borno state region by attempting to push the Nigerian military out whilst not harming civilians. This would enable ISWAP to better establish itself as a controlling presence across Borno state and from there further spread out.
Although ISWAP has been embroiled in conflict with its rival faction Boko Haram, it has still managed to divert enough attention and resources towards pursuing operations against the Nigerian military. Given that ISWAP can still afford to acquire weapons, ammunition, and new recruits, This suggests both that ISWAP’s finances are deeper than anticipated and that ISWAP is structurally stable enough to pursue operations on multiple fronts against several different opposing forces.this indicates that ISWAP is increasingly developing into a disciplined, organized group that can withstand significant military pressure on it.
Location: Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, Nigeria
Parties involved: Nigerian citizens, armed gunmen, Nigerian government, Nigerian police
The event: Several students and three teachers were abducted Thursday by armed men from a federal college in Nigeria’s north-western Kebbi State, according to State Governor Abubakar Bagudu. The raid on Thursday by these armed men resulted in the killing of a policeman in the attack. One student has been found dead, according to the army, which stated it had also successfully rescued five students and two teachers.
The death of a Nigerian policeman in the raid indicates that the assault was premeditated. This is typical of most gunmen assaults on schools and colleges within Nigeria but is also indicative of the continued inability of the Nigerian government to effectively prevent, monitor or control armed groups from carrying out these forms of attacks. The continued inability of the government to control the armed gunmen security situation across many of its states thus directly correlates to the ability of the gunmen to carry out such attacks as the one on the Government College in Kebbi State.
Given that the army has successfully managed to locate several students and teachers in such a short period, it is likely that continued searches in the area will lead to more students and faculty being found. The speed at which the army managed to locate the missing persons also helps as the gunmen will be much slower at evading discovery due to the number of captives they will have to bring with them.
Despite increased security measures being enacted, armed policemen on site being an example, by both the Nigerian government and many of the at-risk schools and colleges, armed gunmen are still successfully raiding and kidnapping en masse. This demonstrates that the rewards seen by the armed gunmen in carrying out these assaults far outweigh the risks in their view. As such, more intense security measures such as ID checks, armed guards and police presence could potentially dissuade future assaults however this would be at the expense of turning educational institutions into security compounds.
Location: Mogadishu, Somalia
Parties involved: Al-Shabaab, Somalian army, Somalian government
The event: At least 15 people in Somalia were killed in a suicide bombing in the countries capital of Mogadishu. The attack reportedly targeted recruits at a Somali armed forces training camp. At least 20 others were wounded. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
This attack highlights the steadfast power of Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization. Targeting Somali army recruits within their training base demonstrates that Al-Shabaab has the capacity and willingness to engage with the Somali army at every level from recruits to professional soldiers. The resistance to both Somali and international efforts to destroy it has enabled Al-Shabaab to refine its tactics and operations to hit weak critical points of the Somali war effort against it, such as army recruits.
The inability of Somali forces to single-handedly control and contain Al-Shabaab has been further amplified with the announced departure of US forces in January. Al-Shabaab likely seeks to capitalize on this by demonstrating to both the Somali government and the wider world that, by attacking Somali trainee soldiers, Somalia is guaranteed to eventually be overwhelmed by Al-Shabaab.
Given the precarious state of Somali domestic politics, it is likely that this attack could set off a political backlash as different sections of the Somali government attempt to capitalize on the attack for their own gains. Although the Somali government is effectively united in its desire to drive out Al-Shabaab, ethnic, tribal, and regional differences mean that occasionally disunity occurs as various sections of the government attempt to capitalize on, the most recent case being president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed who attempted and failed to extend his presidential mandate to allegedly ensure a smooth transition for Somalia’s first public democratic elections.
 UPDATE: Three Soldiers, 7 ISWAP Fighters Killed As Terrorists Invade Borno MIlitary Base Ahead of Buhari’s Visit, Sahara Reporters, June 2021, http://saharareporters.com/2021/06/16/update-three-soldiers-7-iswap-fighters-killed-terrorists-invade-borno-military-base-ahead
 One kidnapped student dead, seven rescued in Nigeria’s Kebbi state, the army says, Reuters, June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/one-kidnapped-student-dead-seven-rescued-nigerias-kebbi-state-army-says-2021-06-18/
 Bomb Blast Kills 15 People in Mogadishu, Democracy Now!, June 2021, https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/16/headlines/bomb_blast_kills_15_people_in_mogadishu