Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, on the same day that the African country’s forces clashed with Boko Haram, repeated the false allegation it has made on various occasions of having “successfully defeated” the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked jihadi group, claiming that the nation is now facing a new “global insurgency.”
On Thursday, Buhari’s Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed identified the new threat as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), claiming it to be a Boko Haram offshoot, the Premium Times revealed. Boko Haram’s leadership announced the rebranding to ISWAP in 2015, pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, though subsequent reports claimed that the jihadist group split in allegiance between ISIS and original Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
Boko Haram successfully pledged allegiance to the core ISIS branch in Iraq and Syria thus, at least on paper, the Nigeria-based terrorist group “ostensibly ceased to exist,” the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point noted in August 2018.
Abubakar Shekau, however, refused to step down after core ISIS named Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder, as the new leader of its West Africa branch. Now, Shekau commands a faction that still calls itself Boko Haram while ISWAP operates under a different leader, Barnawi, prompting some the U.S. government to treat the groups as separate entities.
The Nigerian government is now claiming that it has defeated Boko Haram, but ISWAP is thriving. However, a top U.S. general told American lawmakers on Thursday that while ISWAP is stronger than Boko Haram, the latter still commands about 1,000 jihadis.
On Thursday, the day Mohammed again insisted that the country’s forces had annihilated Boko Haram, the Nigerian army reportedly announced that it had clashed with the terrorist group.
Days before the claim, the terrorist group ravaged several villages in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram’s birthplace. In recent weeks, several media outlets have sounded the alarm on an alleged Boko Haram resurgence, noting that attacks by the group are on the rise.
Minister Mohammed declared, “[Nigerian troops have] successfully cleared the remnant of the home-grown insurgency called Boko Haram and are now being confronted by a fresh crisis, a global insurgency.”
The claim came days before the Nigerian elections, scheduled for February 16. Buhari is seeking reelection and his political opponents have blasted his record on combating the group, arguing that security in the country has deteriorated at the hands of Boko Haram during his tenure.
Early this month, Atiku Abubakar, one of the candidates running against Buhari, indicated that the president’s “denial of the continued threats of the Boko Haram insurgency has made the demand for mental test for all presidential candidates imperative,” Vanguard reported.
On Thursday, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the top U.S. commander in Africa, told lawmakers that the ISWAP offshoot is stronger than its Boko Haram parent.
The top U.S. general testified:
ISIS West Africa has grown. … They’re now in the neighborhood probably of around 3 to 4,000 [jihadis] … They now have taken large pieces of real estate in northern Nigeria and I think, of the two right now, they’re the one that we have the most concern about because we are not sure what their intentions would be with regards to outside the region. Boko Haram probably [has] around a thousand [fighters].
Nigerian Minister Mohammed warned that foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria, where the U.S.-led coalition and local fighters have deprived ISIS of nearly all the territory it once held, are now pouring into the African country along with their weapons.
A faction of Boko Haram has aligned with the global terror group, ISIS, to form ISWAP, the Islamic State’s West African Province. … With ISIS largely dislodged from Iraq and Syria, there is undoubtedly a flush of fresh fighters and weapons to ISWAP. Therefore, our military is fighting a global insurgency, without the kind of global coalition, including the United States, that battled ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
In December 2015, A few months after taking office, Buhari himself proclaimed that his administration had “won the war” against Boko Haram.
Nigerian forces made the same claim the following, again asserting that the jihadis had been beaten.
In January 2018, President Buhari again insisted that his administration had finally dealt a defeating blow to Boko Haram.
President Buhari asserted that his administration would soon defeat Boko Haram in October 2018.
“In terms of the current situation, I do think the current trend line is quite dangerous and that they are far from defeated,” Alex Thurston, a visiting assistant professor of political science and comparative religion at Miami University of Ohio, told BBC, referring to Boko Haram.