But did the terrorists ever stop being mad? This rhetorical question is only a reflection of the current state of the war against terror in the Lake Chad region, writes Senator Iroegbu.
There have been some respite for a while now with terrorists on the retreat and Nigerian troops recovering not only territories but rescuing hundreds of captives. Also, the upswing is public perception of safety has been tremendously aided by the successes of Operation Lafiya Dole and Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), despite ocassional setbacks. This is added to the fact that the days of abductions by the terrorists and horrifying executions of their victims was becoming a thing of the past. But is this relative peace about to be shattered by recent developments?
This is because in a space one week, Boko Haram terrorists and their splinter group, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) have executed combined number of seven victims with 14 others held in captivity in North East Nigeria.
What looks like a horror movie but turned out to be a living reality started early last week when Boko Haram terrorists reminded the public their appetite for bloodshed by allegedly executing two soldiers of the Nigerian Army and an officer of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to deter others engaged in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
In the video circulated to the public, the suspected Boko Haram terrorists were seen executing three security personnel with their hands tied behind their backs after extracting confessional statements confirming their Services and ranks.
“My name is sergeant Christopher Omogbai, of the Nigerian Police, Nigeria Mobile Police Force 30 PMF Yenagoa. I was coming form Bayelsa state to Maiduguri, in my way after Benin , the kidnapper armies captured me. I am Sergeant Yakubu Bandi of 123 battalion. I am Yusuf Suleiman, soldier of the Nigerian Army 5 battalion, I work at Port Harcourt,” were the confessions extracted from the executed officers.
Even though the video has been debunked by the Nigerian Army not to have emanated from Boko Haram but a fabrication by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the chilling effect was not lost on Nigerians.
Nevertheless, not long after the denial and in what seems.like a counter move to prove they can even get nastier than their splinter other, ISWAP on Friday released video announcing the execution of four aid workers engaged by the Action Against Hunger (AAH) with the exception of the only Christian girl among them who they vow to keep in perpetual slavery.
Not done, a Conflict and Terrorism Reporter, Mr. Ahmad Salkida, in an exclusive information confirmed through his twitter handle, announced the abduction of 13 Nigerians barely 24 hours after the killing of four aid workers with AAH, an international humanitarian organization working in North East Nigeria.
“Exclusive: ISWAP executes four more, releases video. All four are male humanitarian workers of Action Against Hunger abducted since July, 2019. The only female amongst them, Grace Taku, according to ISWAP, is condemned to life of slavery,” Salkida announced on Saturday via his Twitter account @A_salkida.
This brought to a climax, one week of horror and terror by these terrorist gangs and their sympathisers prompting some agitated and inquiry minds to wonder what could have been responsible for the recent upsurge in the violence, occasioned by executions and kidnappings of both civilians and security personnel.
The answers could be deduced from the terrorists themselves, the victims and experts.
Competition for ruthlessness among terror groups
There is always competition between and among terror groups as well as within its factions and cells in such a way that sends a message about which is more ruthless in the pursuit of their course. In addition, the bloody orgies were designed to curry favour and obtain the backing of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda as a reliable ally to achieve their objectives of global jihad.
Consequently, this informed the recent executions by Boko Haram terrorists and counter-executions by ISWAP splinter group with more abductions. ISWAP had on Saturday via Salkida’s tweet, released a video of Nigerians kidnapped along the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway in November 2019.
According to him: “The captives are 13 in number and the video shows them identifying themselves in front of the capture camera.
“The captives comprise Nigerians, Muslims and Christians, who were ambushed as they commuted along the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway. They include Bitrus Zakka Bwala, a principal lecturer with the College of Education, Gashua in Yobe state, Muktar Adam who works with the Federal University of Wukari, Taraba state. Among the captives is one female whose face, the group screened off in the video.”
Media traction and aura of invincible
Similar to the competition for ruthlessness,. is the desire by terrorist groups to present an image of invincibility and the need to maintain media traction or visibility. This is usually achieved through sustained and periodic acts of terror to stay relevant and retain media mentions as its natural for such events to be reported.
According the military authorities, defence and intelligence experts, this deceptive act does not mean a strengthening and resurgent terrorist group as such actions may actually indicate a weakness and hence the need to lash out. This, analysts had noted, should be in the mind of decision and policy makers as Boko Haram and ISWAP battle it out for relevance.
Weaken soldiers’ morale and inflict fears on civilians
The recent actions by ISWAP and Boko Haram were also deliberately targeted to weaken the morale of the soldiers and other fighting forces as well as put cast doubts and fears in the minds of the civil populace.
This was exemplified in the Hausa interpretation of the Boko Haram video where it warned that fighting them is an exercise in futility because of their alleged divine mandate.
“We are sending message to the Nigerian soldiers that those who are fighting the religion of God, we will never leave them alone, we will attack their barracks, we will block them on the road, what you see here is real, not just storytelling,” they boasted in the video.
In the same vein, the ISWAP terrorists claimed in their latest abduction vidoe that “the female captive was in the convoy of soldiers ambushed in Mainok, close to Maiduguri”.
“She is attired in a patch of military fatigue but denies being a member of the Military, said the group
Salkida however, clarified that Taku’s fate is now the same with other Christian female captives with the terror group.
Pressure on government, CAN and concerned groups
One of the cardinal objectives of these terrorist groups is to continue piling pressure on the government, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), international organisations and diplomatic community in order to gain advantage at the negotiation table.
ISWAP claims the execution was as a result of breakdown of talks with the government and hence the need to force them back to extract a deal.
“The government is not sincere and do not respect timelines,” reports an ISWAP source.
The same pressure was mounted by Zakka who was the first to speak, appeals to the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as the CAN to intervene and rescue them from an uncertain fate.
“I was on my way to my station when I was abducted. I appeal to the Federal Government, as you can see here (there are various Christians among those) abducted at various points. When we came we saw some workers here particularly the ones with the Action Against Hunger before they were executed. We saw that government has not done enough and that is why Leah Sharibu is still here. We therefore appeal in particular to President Muhammadu Buhari to do whatever is within his reach to rescue us. We equally appeal to our various governors to come to our aid and rescue us. The leadership of Christian organizations, we appeal to you to liaise with the Federal government and push for the rescue of all captives here,” he stated in the video.
Another captives, Bashir from Plateau state also pleaded for the intervention of authorities, while the last to speak among the abductees was Adam, who equally appealed to the Federal Government and Governor Baba Gana Zulum of Borno state to do all within their powers to rescue them as they had done in the past in rescuing several other Nigerians.
Bargain for ransom and a sign of dwindling fortune
As part of the pressure on government and other stakeholders is various forms of ransom demanded by the terrorists groups. It may also be a strong pointer to a dwindling fortune on the part of the terrorists and desperation for cash.
Recall that one of the reasons advanced by Boko Haram/ISWAP for their failure to release Leah Sharibu was the refusal by the government to pay ransom. This could include cash payments and prisoners swap deals as was reportedly done before the release of the Dapchi girls with the exception of Leah.
Government all over the world have refused to be blackmailed into paying ransom to terrorist groups.
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