In recent months, Boko Haram has attacked rural military bases and convoys in the northeastern part of Nigeria and in surrounding countries, acquiring weapons in the process. Since spring 2015, when regional militaries chased most of its members back underground, the sect had been focused on survival and terrorism. While the group is far from their high point of 2014-2015, when they controlled a territory estimated at 20,000 square miles, these raids show a new strategic acumen.
Many of these raids are reportedly carried out by a breakaway faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, rather than the movement’s longtime leader Abubakar Shekau. Al-Barnawi’s faction is formally aligned with ISIS, but their recruitment base and area of operations is highly localized to northeastern Nigeria and the surrounding region. What makes al-Barnawi’s group dangerous is not necessarily their ties to the Islamic State, but rather their new strategy.
Al-Barnawi’s raids on military bases have been a pattern since his group’s break with Shekau in the summer of 2016. The group sometimes attacks the same site repeatedly, as was the case with assaults on a base in the village of Kamuya in December 2016, January 2017, and July 2017. The attacks serve multiple purposes simultaneously. By raiding the military’s supplies, Boko Haram can replenish its weapons and ammunition. Their hauls can be large: a raid on a military base in Marte a few weeks ago in October yielded a “cache of arms and vehicles, including seven rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 200 rounds of ammunition.” Another October assault on the village of Sasawa netted Boko Haram “two pick-up trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.” Often, by raiding the host village as well, the fighters also replenish their food stocks, generating momentum for the next raid. Read more