How Powerful is Boko Haram?
Boko Haram has lost its self proclaimed Caliphate and all the territories it controlled at its peak in 2015. However the Jihadi group took military observers by surprise when it worked its way from group of ragtag fighters into very effective f9ghting force, and has proved it has the potential to make a major comeback, not just as a guerilla force waging small scale attacks, but capable of taking the Nigerian military head on.
President Buhari’s pre-mature and ill-advised declaration that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” was a strategic blunder, as it forced the jihadi group to do whatever it can to jump back into the headline to prove it is still relevant. The easiest way to accomplish this of course was to carry out suicide bombings against defenceless civilians and claiming responsibility. These attacks came less than a month after president Bubari declared Boko Haram has been defeated.
While Boko Haram lacked air power, it laid claim to stocks of heavy weaponry, some acquired in the black market from Libya’s looted amoury, some captured or stolen from Nigerian army. The result was a group of rag rag fighters with a collection of heavy weaponry offering tactical flexibility.
MILITARY EQUIPMENT OF BOKO HARAM.
Mele weapons such as suya knives, box cutters and other tools count as frequently used weapons, especially in propaganda videos were captured pilots and soldiers are beheaded.
Fire arms play a central role in the arsenal of Boko Haram. From AK-47 Kalashnikovs to modern rifles and general purpose machine guns, Boko Haram is not short of firearms
Main Battle Tanks
Boko Haram us believed to have captured as many ten Vickers Mk.3 Eagle battle tanks from the Nigerian army and a handful of Scorpion light tanks.
In addition to locally fabricated rockets, Boko Haram have used Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and howitzer it stoke from the Nigerian army. The presence of such weapons illustrates how quickly Nigerian army weaponss can be turned against its own soldiers. They reshape a battlefield and pose danger to the Nigerian troops who routinely travel in vehicles that aren’t made to withstand heavy weapons.
Improvised explosive devices are by far the most popular weapons in the arsenal of Boko Haram. Over %60 of attacks against Nigerian troops were executed with explosive devices.
In 2015 Nigerian forces uncovered a rocket making factory with hundreds of rockets in the heart of the Sambisa. The scope and scale of Boko Haram’s production demonstrated the perils of a determined militahts organization allowed to pursue its ambitions in a large ungoverned space i.e. the 66,000 square kilometres Sambisa forest.
The weapons were standardized, including locally manufactured injection-moulded munition fumes, shoulder fired rounds, motar munitions, modular bomb parts. These weapons were being produced in industrial quantities and put to brutal use against army and police forces fighting it.
BOKO HARAM NAVY
In June 2019 Boko Haram took over a Nigerian navy base on Lake Chad, capturing 12 gunboats and commencing its naval arm. As officers fled they shot into the air as a sign of victory, chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is the greatest).
Four of the naval officers captured alive were made to introduce themselves while being recorded before they were eventually executed by the terrorist group.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
The destruction of Libya by a French inspired NATO bombardment and the unwillingness to install mechanisms to fill the power vacuum after the destruction of the central government came with far reaching consequences for the continent of Africa.
Gadaffi narrowly escaped with his life when three F-111 fighter bombers, in a strike ordered by U.S President Ronald Reagan struck his compound, killing his daughter. Gadaffi will spend the next decade building one of the largest stockpile of weapons in the world. He also oversaw the development of a strong national arms industry producing small arms, mortars and shells.
When Libya was destroyed Gadaffi’s stockpile of weapons were never secured or audited as NATO was obligated to. Hundreds of thousands of these weapons went missing and were never accounted for. To put things into perspective, in 2012 the CIA decried NATO’s refusal to put troops on the ground to secure those sites (it wasn’t politically expedient to do so) and reported that over 20,000 Man portable anti aircraft missiles (MANPADS) have gone missing. That’s more MANPADS than in the combined arsenal of FRANCE and the U.S. At a point ISIS became the first terrorist group with its own air force with the capture of a couple of MIG-21 fighter jet.
It’s bad enough being flanked on all sides by autocratic regimes, but endemic corruption by successive administrations and incompetence and a porous border have contributed by far the most to the problem.
When billions of dollars are embezzled and soldiers are armed with the most rudimentary of weapons you cannot blame soldiers for saving their lives by abandoning their bases and fleeing when confronted with a superior enemy. They face a grueling and painful death if captured alive. Most of these soldiers have wives and families.
The Nigerian army practice of housing weapons and munitions sometimes in open tents exacerbates the problem, because when Boko Haram overrun military bases these weapons are theirs for the taking. Picture hundreds of Boko Haram fighters in their drug induced craze and bloodlust overunning army ordnance bases and cantonememts. They are like children in a sweetshop. They take their time, often times hours in pillaging and looting and drive dozens of kilometres in a long convoy of trucks with not a single helicopter or attack aircraft harassing them.
Nigerian army weapons are now being used to commit horrific abuses, killing a and abductions, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. The NAF has often been forced to take out these weapons.