The U.S.-backed Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) fighting jihadis in the Lake Chad Basin counties over the weekend dismissed a video by the Islamic State-West African Province (ISWAP) released late last month and purportedly showing the execution of nine Nigerian troops as well as the seizure of personnel and their heavy weapons.
On Sunday Nigerian Col Timothy Antigha, the chief information officer the MNJTF coalition comprised mostly of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger, dismissed the video as propaganda in a statement titled, “Re-ISWAP Propaganda Video: Terrorists Aiming to Manipulate Public Opinion,” the Vanguard daily reports.
While the U.S. military only has offensive strike authority in Libya and Somalia, the American armed forces also support to the MNJTF — charged with combating Boko Haram and its ISWAP breakaway faction.
In 2016, ISWAP jihadis reportedly cut their ties with the Nigeria-based Boko Haram terrorist group over leadership differences. The U.S. and Nigerian governments treat both groups as different entities.
In denying the contents of the video disseminated by ISWAP on May 22, Col. Antigha wrote:
The attention of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has been drawn to a propaganda video being orchestrated online by agents of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), purporting to show personnel and equipment allegedly captured in the ongoing conflict in the Lake Chad Area.
As usual, the ISWAP video is largely make believe and without any substance, as their claims are substantially debatable, while a few are pieces of information already in the public domain.
The African coalition went on to say that it recovered missing personnel and equipment from ISWAP attacks in the village of Metele (November 2017) and the town of Baga (December 2018), both in Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram.
In the wake of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) attacks in Borno, the MNJTF reportedly launched an operation to rescue missing troops and recover lost equipment, among other things.
“Consequently, a sizable number of the equipment shown in the video have since been recovered or destroyed,” the statement said.
In Sunday’s statement, MNJTF also pointed out that it has not shied away from making public the record number of military casualties at the hands of ISWAP in Borno:
Therefore, other than sheer misinformation and crass propaganda which are aimed at causing panic and manipulating public opinion, the ISWAP video has not introduced any new dimension into the conflict discourse surrounding the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the Lake Chad Area. Islamic State-backed Boko Haram faction claims Borno attack
The November 2017 attack left at least 100 Nigerian soldiers dead in Metele, marking one of the highest deaths tolls since recently re-elected President Muhammadu Buhari first came to power in 2015, Turkey’s TRT World channel reported in January 2019.
Via Twitter just last week, the Nigerian Army under Buhari again repeated its false claim of victory over Boko Haram, writing:
We have defeated Boko Haram & they will never come back as BHT [Boko Haram terrorists]. ISWAP is a band of international criminal gangs, we will chase & hunt them down like BHT – [Nigerian Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf] Buratai, [the highest ranking military official in the African country,] vows.
WE HAVE DEFEATED BOKO HARAM & THEY WILL NEVER COME BACK AS BHT; ISWAP IS A BAND OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL GANGS, WE WILL CHASE & HUNT THEM DOWN LIKE BHT – BURATAI VOWS. Read more athttps://t.co/P8bLGonRD4
— Nigerian Army (@HQNigerianArmy) May 30, 2019
The Buhari administration declared the Nigerian armed forces are now mainly focused on combating ISWAP.
Last month, the International Crisis Organization, a widely cited non-governmental organization that monitors violent conflicts, revealed that ‘“an estimated 3,500-5,000” ISWAP jihadis “overshadow” Boko Haram, “which has roughly 1,500-2,000.”
ISWAP “appears to have gained the military upper hand over” Boko Haram, the NGO noted.
The African coalition, however, claimed in its recent statement “that contrary to the fatuous and dubious claims to [the terrorist group’s] expansion in the Lake Chad Region, ISWAP’s influence has been curtailed considerably due to relentless pursuits by the MNJTF and national forces, as well as rejection by populations in the region.”
“From the foregoing, it is clear that while the MNJTF is growing stronger operationally, ISWAP is losing ground and influence, growing weaker and having to rely on the manipulation of public opinion to advance its sinister objectives,” MNJTF added.
Contradicting the assertions by MNJTF, the NGO said the ISIS wing in West Africa has “made inroads among Muslim civilians by treating them better than its parent organization and by filling gaps in governance and service delivery.”
Echoing the failed effort of its parent group in Iraq and Syria, ISWAP jihadis are employing their growing power and influence to establish “a proto-state in northern Nigeria,” the primary stronghold of Boko Haram.
Since launching its insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has also failed to establish a sharia-compliant Islamic emirate in Nigeria, to no avail.
“[ISWAP] has also caused real pain to the Nigerian military, its primary target, overrunning dozens of army bases and killing hundreds of soldiers since August 2018,” the Premium Times reported last week.
Amid the rise in jihadi violence fueled by ISWAP, Nigerians are urging President Buhari to restore their gun rights.
Nigerian lawmakers urged “Buhari to reverse the Executive Order revoking all gun certificates and licenses throughout the federation,” Premium Times reported last Thursday.