Boko Haram overwhelmed Nigerian and allied troops and overran the Multinational Joint Task Force base in northeastern Nigeria near Lake Chad yesterday.
At around 5 a.m. yesterday, the al Qaeda-linked jihadists attacked the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) base, which is located just outside the town of Baga in northeastern Borno state, and battled with soldiers for hours. The Boko Haram fighters attacked the MNJTF base “from all directions,” and forced the soldiers to abandon the base, the BBC reported. The number of those killed during the assault, including Nigerian and allied troops as well as Boko Haram fighters, has not been disclosed.
A senator from Borno, Maina Maaji Lawan, confirmed that the base was lost and told the BBC that “[t]here is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram.”
Civilians from Baga and five nearby towns are fleeing the area and crossing into Chad to seek refuge, Vanguard reported.
The MNJTF base, which was manned by troops from Nigeria, Niger, and Chad to interdict criminal activity in the Lake Chad area, was expanded in 2014 to help fight the spread of Boko Haram activity in the area where the borders of Nigeria, Niger, and Chad intersect.
Boko Haram has had success in overrunning large military bases in the past. In December 2013, hundreds of fighters from the jihadist group attacked a Nigerian Air Force base base on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, using trucks and a stolen armored personnel carrier. The jihadists destroyed two helicopters and torched the headquarters building and a police checkpoint before withdrawing.
Later that month, Boko Haram fighters assaulted a base in Bama that housed a tank battalion. An unknown number of soldiers and their families were killed as the fighters attacked the barracks area of the base before withdrawing. [See LWJ report, Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Air Force base, and Threat Matrix report, Boko Haram attacks another base in Borno.]
Boko Haram has rampaged across northeastern Nigerian, particularly in the states of Borno and Yobe, nearly unchecked over the past year. The jihadist group has assaulted and in many cases taken control of towns, kidnapping hundreds of civilians and executing thousands of others, and has even attacked across the border in neighboring Cameroon. A ceasefire between the government and Boko Haram, which was announced in mid-October 2014, was ignored.
Both the United States and the United Nations have tied Boko Haram to al Qaeda’s network. Terrorist designations of Boko Haram leaders as well as the group itself by the US and the UN note links, which include support, training, and cooperation in several battlefields in Africa, between Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Shabaab, and jihadist groups in Mali. [See LWJ reports, UN adds Boko Haram to al Qaeda sanctions list; US adds Boko Haram, Ansaru to list of foreign terrorist groups; US adds 3 Boko Haram leaders to list of global terrorists; and Zawahiri’s man in Shabaab’s ‘secret service’.]
Abubakar Shekau, the emir of Boko Haram, has publicly expressed affinity with al Qaeda. In a video released in November 2012, Shekau praised the global jihadist organization, and said he and his fighters support jihad and the “brothers” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, and Mali.