Why Boko Haram teamed up with Bandits in Northwest, Northcentral – Report
A report by Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has confirmed that Shekau-led Boko Haram faction has been strongly involved in the activities of bandits in Northwest and Northcentral to further its expansionist agenda.
ISS also reports that the Boko Haram terrorists participated in the abduction of 300 schoolboys in Katsina and other attacks carried out by bandits in Zamfara and Niger.
In the report published on its official website, ISS stated not only did JAS (Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (JAS) faction, led by Shekau) participate in the abduction, but the link between the group and bandits pre-dated the incident.
Highlighting Boko Haram’s agenda, ISS stated that Shekau has long been interested in expanding its base beyond Nigeria’s north-east. And its north-west and north-central regions are increasingly becoming its areas of choice due to deteriorating security and other conditions there.
ISS report further stated that “the group’s interest in these regions, especially the north-west, can be traced to a 2014 internal ‘Message to Fulanis’ video. In it, Shekau is seen expressing ‘gratitude’ to fighters in Katsina State and other unspecified locations.
“About six years later, in what appeared to be further confirmation of Shekau’s interest in the regions, Boko Haram fighters sent greetings to their colleagues in Zamfara and Niger states in a video released by the group. Three weeks later, the greeting was reciprocated by fighters in Niger State.”
ISS further revealed that Shekau’s forays into the north-west and north-central areas to create an Islamic state that goes beyond the north-east, recruitment and financial gains from ransom payments and other activities like illegal gold mining.
ISS added that another major reason for the co-operation is to create a diversion so as to remove or reduce security forces’ pressure on the north-east, particularly Sambisa Forest as this gives Shekau some breathing space from the military operations at his Sambisa base.
ISS while speaking to former fighters gathered that the constant military operations in Sambisa Forest had in the past made Shekau think of fleeing to the Mandara Mountains. But it would have been impossible to move his armaments without attracting security forces’ attention. Also, the military could cut his supply chains, and his fighters’ morale would be damaged by a move seen as cowardly. This could lead to a revolt and possibly another split.
“It therefore makes sense that JAS instead used the insecurity in regions outside the north-east to create more trouble for security forces. And the presence of criminals in these regions offers him the platform to do so seamlessly without raising eyebrows.”