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Security Brief: AFRICOM Week of May 10, 2021

Week of Monday, 05/10/21 | Issue 30


Niall Paltiel, Shama Shah, AFRICOM


BOKO HARAM LAKE CHAD TERRITORY[1]


Date: May 11 2021

Location: Borno State, Nigeria

Parties involved: Boko Haram, Nigerian Military, Nigerian Government

The event: Boko Haram launched an attack on Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno State, according to Nigerian military sources. The area is where the Giwa Barracks, a military detention center, is located. This site has come under attack multiple times since 2014, given that it frequently holds the family members of insurgents.[2]

The implications:

  • Borno State is the primary base of Boko Haram and the primary target of many of its attacks. This most recent attack on the state capital demonstrates that Boko Haram’s capacity to attack high-risk targets is still present, contrary to the claims of Nigerian military officials.[3] The location of the Giwa Barracks, which Boko Haram has frequently assaulted over the years, also highlights the critical lack of proper security measures in Borno State, allowing Boko Haram to continue conducting assaults. Should Boko Haram successfully occupy Maiduguri, both the Nigerian government and Nigerian military’s efforts in the state will be severely hampered and may result in the Nigerian government losing political control in Borno state. Without a centralized point of coordination that possesses capable infrastructure, political and economic capacities, the Nigerian state would lack a strong physical presence in the state.

  • Aside from potentially forcing the Nigerian state out of the region, capturing Maiduguri would provide Boko Haram with major assets, as they would be able to exploit the infrastructure, population, and economic base of the capital to further their wider goals. Boko Haram would also gain access to military facilities, such as Giwa Barracks, which would inevitably lead to the prolongation of the conflict.


Date: May 10, 2021

Location: Mogadishu, Somalia

Parties involved: Al Shabaab, Somali police

The event: A member of the al Shabaab killed himself and six police officers in front of a police station in the Waberi district in Mogadishu when he blew himself up. The commissioner of the Waberi police was also killed in the attack. The group purposefully targeted the police station, aiming to kill as many policemen as possible.[4]

The implications:

  • In the past, Al Shabaab has targeted police personnel in an effort to reduce their manpower. Should they be successful, Somalia will lose many policemen, and potential recruits would hesitate to join the police forces. This would eventually lead to a decrease in the force and, in turn, increase Shabaab’s chances of success.

  • Targeting the police will likely mean a strong and swift retaliation from the police force and many Shabaab cells will likely be attacked. The group may in turn lose many militants and resources, which would slow their operations down drastically.

  • The government of Somalia may reform policies to empower police officers more since they are being targeted. Should this happen, a lot more action will be taken against al Shabaab, which would greatly affect the group.


Date: May 12, 2021

Location: Wajir, Kenya

Parties involved: Al Shabaab, Kenyan police

The event: A Kenyan police reservist was killed and two others injured in an early morning attack on a telecommunications tower in Wajir county, Kenya. The attack was perpetrated by the al Shabaab, a Somali-based al Qaeda affiliated group. Two Shabaab gunmen were also killed and two AK47 rifles with 10 magazines sequestered.[5]

The implications:

  • This attack confirms al Shabaab’s persistent attempts to make their presence felt in Kenya. Continued attacks and loss of police life will likely lead to the weakening of the Kenya/Somali border, eventually making it possible for more insurgents to enter Kenya. This would put the country at a high-security risk as the group will have foot soldiers on the ground, making operation plans easier and recruitment costs lower. Al Shabaab attacking masts is a tactic used to destroy phone communication between the region and the rest of Kenya. In this way, police forces in Wajir are unable to call for backup when needed, leaving them at a disadvantage should there be a mass attack by Shabaab fighters.

  • The guns and ammunition seized by the Kenyan police is only a small victory, as two AK47 rifles and 10 magazines are not significant enough to affect the group. It is more likely to have a psychological impact on the Kenyan police, who will look at this as a victory and be encouraged to carry out further attacks on Al Shabaab.


Date: May 14, 2021

Location: Kaduna State, Nigeria

Parties involved: Bandits, Nigerian Government, Nigerian Citizens

The event: Bandits who successfully kidnapped 20 students and three staff from Greenfield University in Kaduna State are demanding an additional 100 million Naira on top of the 60 million Naira already collectively paid by parents of the kidnapped students. Five of the students have already been killed by the bandits, who are threatening to kill the rest if all ransom demands are not met.[6]

The implications:

  • Unlike most previous ransom kidnappings where the bandits would wait for payment without harming most students, five have already been killed with the bandits threatening to kill the rest. This may imply either that these bandits are desperate for funds and are trying to force as much revenue as possible out of the local civilians, or that bandits are beginning to take increasingly aggressive actions to drive an exploitable wedge between the Nigerian populace and its government, due to the federal government refusing to negotiate with bandits.

  • The Federal government’s unwillingness to help the affected families is likely to widen already widespread distrust and anger amongst the Nigerian population towards the government over its handling of bandit kidnappings. This may lead to the development of local countermeasures against the bandits and the possible spread of vigilante justice in an effort to resist the bandit onslaught.

  • The Federal government risks losing the hearts and minds of many impacted citizens should it continue to remain aloof to the situation. Were the bandits to eventually kill the remaining students and staff members, the government may likely be viewed as having been complacent and indifferent to the situation. This, in turn, may impact the stability of an already shaky government control over many of the bandit plagued northern states, with many locals feeling abandoned by the central government.

[1]Boko Haram in Lake Chad Region” by Zeogludon, licensed under Creative Commons.

[2] Boko Haram Currently Attacking Borno Capital, Maiduguri, Sahara Reporters, May 2021, https://saharareporters.com/2021/05/11/breaking-boko-haram-currently-attacking-borno-capital-maiduguri

[3] Ibid.

[4] Suicide bombing by Somalia's al Shabaab group kills six, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/suicide-bomber-kills-six-police-officers-somali-capital-police-2021-05-10/

[5] Police kill two Shabaab gunmen in Wajir, The Star, May 2021, https://www.the-star.co.ke/counties/north-eastern/2021-05-12-police-kill-two-shabaab-gunmen-in-wajir/

[6] Despite Paying N60 million, Bandits Demanding More To Release Our Children - Parents of Abducted Kaduna Varsity Students, Sahara Reporters, May 2021, https://saharareporters.com/2021/05/14/despite-paying-n60million-bandits-demanding-more-release-our-children-%E2%80%94parents-abducted

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