FEATURE: Fear grips residents of North-East Nigeria over recurring ISWAP attacks
By: Zagazola Makama
Thousands of residents in the Nigeria's North East of Monguno, Borno State, are currently living in fear over imminent attack by the Islamic State of the West African Province’s(ISWAP), terrorists.
Monguno Local Government which is currently housing about 800,000 displaced families, is located about 137.9 km to the restive city of Maiduguri.
Zagazola Makama, a Counter Insurgency Expert and Security Analyst in the Lake Chad, was informed by Intelligence sources that the town being one of the socio-economic hub of Northern Borno, has been very peaceful until recently when it was subjected to series of coordinated attacks by ISWAP terrorists.
The latest attack was carried out on Sunday July 17, when the ISWAP swooped on the town at about 1 a.m with heavy arms. They were however engaged by the troops in a gun battle that lasted till about 2a.m, forcing them to retreat.
On Monday, July 18, the attackers made another incursion into the town at about 9pm; a heavy gunfight with troops ensued which lasted for about one hour before the attack was eventually repelled.
It was gathered that the fleeing terrorists blocked the road between Monguno to Gajiram and shot three commuters in Gasarwa Village. The victims who sustained bullets wounds were evacuated to Monguno General Hospital for treatment.
ISWAP intensify attacks in Monguno
ISWAP has Coordinated series of attacks on the town since June 18, when they stormed the town, killed 3 civilians and abducted three other humanitarian workers and fled towards the axis of Marte in the shores of the Lake Chad.
Similarly On July 3, the terrorists returned again to attack the town in multiple folds through the parapet with motorcycles and four vehicles wielded with Anti Air Craft guns in the wee hours of the day.
They engaged Army troops of Sector 3 Multi National Joint Task Force around Charlie one formation but they were pushed back by the troops.
On July 4, the ISWAP coordinated another attack at the Charlie one checking point and killed two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and Kidnapped three others.
In the same vein, on the July 8, the terrorists mounted a snap checking point along Monguno-Maiduguri road and abducted one member of the Civilian JTF and one other Personel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC) who were on transit in a commercial vehicle.
On July 10, the heavily armed ISWAP terrorists infiltrated the town through Charlie 6 at about 2.45 am and fired several shots, causing the death of at least two civilians who were hit by stray bullets. Again, the combined military efforts forced the insurgents to withdraw.
The military authority later imposed curfew and placed restrictions on vehicular movement within the town and it's environ.
Two persons suspected to be working for the terrorists were killed when they attempted to sneak out of the town through the parapets during the curfew time.
“We Live in Fear,” Monguno Residents Narrate Ordeals
Some residents of Monguno say they are living in constant fear due to recent spate of insecurity bedeviling the town as the terrorists have continued to attack and abduct people.
Babagana Bashir, a resident, said “We have been living in fear for the past 40 days. We believe that those who are attacking the town are coordinating the attacks from within the town".
Bashir lamented that there has been massive influx of new faces within the past five months; most of them, he said, claimed that they came to do business.
“We suspected that the terrorists may have recruited spies in the town who helped them to coordinate attacks on the town".
Ibrahim Rabbanima, another resident, who expressed the same fear, said he may relocate his family out of the town if the situation did not improve.
Rabbanima said that there was uncertainty in the security of the town as the Boko Haram had promised more attacks.
“We believe that many of them had infiltrated into the town with their weapons. They said they will attack the town and make life unbearable to the people.
“We also believe that these attacks were retaliations to the military operations in the fringes of the Lake Chad by the Nigerian Military and the MNJTF", he said.
A Community leader, Musa Muhammed, said that the insurgents are currently targeting the homes of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the town in order to pave way for bigger attacks.
He said that many Civilian JTF members were killed while some were abducted by the terrorists in recent times, noting that they may be forcing them to reveal information on where and who they should attack.
The community leader alleged that two persons that were recently killed by the terrorists in the town were engaging in businesses with them.
“They actually came after them because they did not fulfil their demands", he said.
War Against ISWAP and the Network of informants
A competent Military sources predicted that the situation may worsened as some of the terrorists had gained access into the town under the guise of surrendered persons; others came in as merchants while some are hiding under the guise of being Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs).
The sources who was familiar with the activities of the informants told of how some months ago, the insurgents deployed some well-trained women to the town as agents to keep vigil on activities of troops.
These women would be in the IDPs camp, but would also be conducting SWOT analysis on the troops and report back to the terrorist for coordinated attacks on the town.
“We believe that there are some people within the town coordinating these attacks with terrorists coming from the axis of Kukawa, Marte and Gamborun Ngala local government areas", he said.
The sources further disclosed that any day that there will be an attacks, the terrorist-collaborators usually fold one leg of their trousers in order not to be targeted by the intruders.
"We know where they are coming from.They will first gathered in some villages around Gwallam, Bulwa Bakin Dam in Kukawa general before going for the attack.
"The deteriorating security situation in the town should be blamed to lack of strict monitoring and surveillance by the security forces, community and Civilian JTF.
“At some point, anybody could just come into Monguno town, buy logistics and food items and take them to unknown destinations, mostly suspected to be ISWAP enclaves", he said.
"From the above accounts which are actually recent developments, it is apparent that the network of informants in the north east is growing in complexity and sophistication, and that it has become a booming business enterprise for the unscrupulous locals and their recruiters.
"With the escalation of this odious enterprise, it is not difficult understanding why the terrorists remain resilient and why their attacks on troops have become frequent, especially in the town of Monguno in the North East of Borno state.
"The urgent need to crack and dismantle this devious network of informants cannot be overstated and the responsibility is not that of the military alone.
"This is where the intervention of Traditional Rulers, the locals, political and Religious leaders in the zone is critically and urgently needed. The fight against terrorism must be fought by everybody in order to bring an end to it, said the source. End.
Zagazola Makama is Security Analyst and Counter Insurgency Expert in the Lake-Chad