Nigeria’s military has imposed a ban on riding horseback in northeast Borno state in an attempt to make members of the ISIS-affiliated terror group Boko Haram more conspicuous and, thus, easier to arrest or kill.
A military spokesman confirmed that no civilians will be permitted to ride horses in the state, and those seen on horseback will be assuned to have ties to Boko Haram–now known as the Islamic State West Africa Province. “Military authorities have banned the use of horses in the entire Borno state to stave off Boko Haram terrorist attacks,” said Colonel Tukur Gusau, noting that he believed “only the terrorists will flaunt this ban and our troops will take the appropriate action when they come across such terrorists in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
Gusau explained that he believed the increase in number of horseback village raids was a sign that the group was in “disarray,” unable to fuel many of its vehicles and “resort to the use of horses in carrying out attacks.”
The Nigerian military has in recent days made multiple statements claiming that Boko Haram has been weakened, and interpreting a number of alarming developments as proof that the group is being forced to turn to more creative measures to remain active. Gusau issued a separate statement Tuesday, claiming, for example, that the capture of 2,000 cartons of smoked fish was a sign that Boko Haram is deteriorating. “We invited you to witnessed [sic] the burning of N2, 000 cartons and smoke fish and smoke meat, which they use in funding their terrorism,” the spokesman alerted.
Nigeria also claims it has arrested a number of people associated with the group responsible for black market trades to fund their attacks. “Following … directives to troops in the northeast for a painstaking search of motorists and cargoes, troops of the 3 Division Nigerian army have intercepted and arrested some kingpins and foot soldiers of suppliers of Boko Haram terrorists with hard drugs and other stimulants,” an army statement read on Tuesday. This arrest occurred in neighboring Yobe state.
The Nigerian military has also claimed that the discovery of individuals with Boko Haram ties in southwestern Lagos–on the opposite end of the country from Borno–was another sign that Boko Haram members were fleeing as far as possible from Nigerian justice. Those stuck in the Sambisa Forest in Borno, meanwhile, are allegedly facing a significant lack of resources, as the military has deliberated targeted fuel and electricity sources in the forest to smoke the terrorists out of the forest.
Those most affected by the ban on horseback riding are local tribal chiefs, though reports indicate they are comfortable with the new measures so long as they produce results. “The Shehu (of Borno) summoned and briefed all traditional chiefs under the Kanem Borno emirate on the ban on horses, which was decided to stop Boko Haram attacks on villages in northern Borno,” local chief Malam Ba’Kura explained to the AFP. “We welcome this ban and we have spread the news to all our subjects who are also happy with it because it is aimed at ending the new wave of attacks by Boko Haram gunmen riding horses,” he added.
Villages run by traditional chiefs in remote areas of Borno have been among the most victimized by Boko Haram. In one of the deadliest recent attacks, 79 people were found dead in a village in August, following a horseback raid in Baanu and Hambagda, Borno state. In the latter attack, Boko Haram terrorists attacked a mosque during prayer hours to maximize the number of deaths. During both attacks, witnesses state the terrorists appear to be shooting “indiscriminately,” with little targeting, in the hopes of killing as many as possible.
The horseback ban follows a greater behavioral ban in Chad and Cameroon–a ban on wearing the full Muslim head covering, or burqa, in public. In the early days of the ban in Chad, Boko Haram took advantage of lax enforcement to plant a female suicide bomber in a crowded public square.