By David Otto
At least 150 Boko Haram fighters and close family members from the Abubakar Shekau’s Jama’ at Ahl al Sunna lil Da’wa wal Jihad (JAS) faction hiding in hastily constructed makeshift camps in the deep Sambisa forest have died from what sources describe as an unexpected outbreak of Cholera. Sources say over 500 others are in critical and desperate condition in need of medical attention.
There is a real concern the water-borne disease may likely spread beyond the jihadist circle as family members (mostly women and children) of the sect are escaping the squalid camps to seek treatment in nearby local communities and Internally displaced camps (IDPs).
Compatible sources familiar with the health epidemic have confirmed that the deadly plague sweeping through different jihadist connected camps in Sambisa forest, visited the insurgents enclaves in the last 7 days.
Unfortunately, the victims include women, children and very young insurgents fighters. Common symptoms have included severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and leg cramps leading to dehydration, septic shock, and death.
Sources say the JAS senior leadership is hiding in a state of confusion with no medical remedy to stop the spread of the deadly disease. Cholera is very common amongst Boko Haram jihadist camps due to poor sanitary conditions – made worse by severe rains and flood.
Regional security alert and vigilance is required as the JAS leadership has instructed unaffected units to go on a robbery mission targeting medical facilities, local markets, humanitarian heath staff — in a desperate attempt to seek for immediate treatment of the cholera victims – especially the fighters and women.
The cholera outbreak has been made worse for Boko Haram by a consistent aerial and ground strike by the Nigerian military and the regional Multi-national joint task force (MNJTF) troops on some of their well-established camps. The terrorist units are being forced to constantly migrate between highly affected camps to safer camps with both wounded and sick comrades leading to real fear that the disease is likely to spread to other camps.
Boko Haram JAS fighters and their families have also been spotted relocating towards the porous border of Cameroon. Some of the cholera stricken victims were transported at a location given by sources as “Sabil Huda”, a known JAS camp in the Sambisa forest.
Attacks in Cameroon
The recent attacks by the JAS faction in neighbouring Cameroon villages has been linked to a combination of the cholera outbreak and military offensives on jihadist camps in the Sambisa Forest –
In a desperate survival tactic to steal food items and drugs, the insurgents attacked a location given as Boram village, located East of Katikime in the Republic of Cameroon on Sept. 9, at about 10pm. Earlier, the same JAS unit attacked Bullaram village – also in Cameroon.
On Sept 8, the JAS faction was reported to have attacked and killed at least local 15 fishermen. Their boats and food items were seized at Mandarari, a riverrin Community located North of Darak – Cameroon Nigeria borders.
Sources are reporting a build-up of factional tension caused by migration due to the cholera outbreak. The ISWAP leadership is concerned that JAS elements could spread the disease to their areas of operation leading to fears of a possible violent clash between the JAS faction and ISWAP elements operating along the Lake Chad axis.
There is a need for local community alertness, vigilance and caution by national and regional frontline military and security services and other health stakeholders; INGOs, Lake Chad Basin states and local authorities should be prepared for possible response. The spread of Cholera in jihadist camps may likely spill over to local resettled communities and IDP camps. With real fear of covid19 spread – the combination of an epidemic and a pandemic is a disaster for regional stability.
If you see something – say something.
Otto is a Counter Terrorism expert