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SBM Intelligence @sbmintelligence
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On the evening of 7/9/18, fighters loyal to ISWAP raised their flag over #Gudumbali, HQ of Guzamala LGA, #Borno.

Soldiers and policemen in town abandoned their positions, and in some instances discarded their uniforms as they sought to escape the advancing terrorists.
What was striking was the speed with which @HQNigerianArmy lost control of Gudumbali, a strategic town that lies on the road between Damasak and Monguno.

This attack was less than a week after 145 Battalion was attacked in Zari, 51km away, leading to the loss of 48 soldiers.
Belatedly, @HQNigerianArmy launched a counter-attack to retake #Gudumbali on the evening of 8/9/18.

As of the time of writing this report, the operation is still ongoing with fighting having spread as far as Kukawa, 43km away.
2018 is likely to go down as the year of the debacle – the year in which the gulf between official claims of #BokoHaram’s technical defeat and the sordid reality of a resilient insurgency that is unlikely to end soon was cruelly exposed.
Last week’s attack on #Gudumbali was a milestone in a series of reversals that has been inflicted on @HQNigerianArmy over the past 6 months.
These reversals have coincided with the offensive launched by #ISWAP, whose leader, Abu Musab al Barnawi, favours a streamlined ruthlessness that targets the armed forces.
The #ISWAP offensive has seen a mounting spate of ambushes of military convoys and attacks on military bases that are estimated to have claimed the lives of at least 600 Nigerian troops this year so far.

In the whole of 2017, @HQNigerianArmy recorded 300 casualties.
A feature of #ISWAP’s attacks has been the seizure of uniforms and armaments from sacked bases adding to the group’s already formidable arsenal.

This has happened in attacks in Boboshe, Gajiram, Garunda, Jilli, Zari, and also in #Gudumbali.
These setbacks are driven by a number of factors.

@HQNigerianArmy which is also presently deployed in at least 30 states of the federation, is spread too thin and cannot secure the vast expanse of Borno which at almost 71,000 sq km, is #Nigeria’s 2nd largest state by landmass.
The counter-insurgency campaign also suffers from the lack of adequate air support.

The discontinuation of the 2014 contract with #SouthAfrican PMC, STEPP, vastly reduced the air-strike capabilities of the Nigerian forces, and diminished the threat to the insurgents.
In addition, #Borno’s unguarded borders with 3 other countries – #Cameroon, #Chad & #Niger – enables insurgents to move fluidly across borders and hibernate in pockets of territory.
@DefenceInfoNG is confronting a transnational insurgency which now transcends binary categories of either internal insurrection or international conflict.

The enemy is nimble and mobile, and able to flow through permeable boundaries in ways @HQNigerianArmy cannot.
In short, #Nigeria may be a fragile state but the fact that she shares borders with states that are even more anaemic complicates the scenario.
#ISWAP were said to have declared that they were targeting only @HQNigerianArmy.

Even so, continued fighting is bound to have repercussions for the planned return on displaced persons to their communities.
Public confidence in the ability of @AsoRock to organize a safe, secure and sustainable return of IDPs can only have been diminished.

It seems that with the new stance, #ISWAP is saying that it is more capable of keeping civilians safe than the government is able to do.
It will be a serious victory for the insurgents if they are successful with this messaging and the people begin to return to their homes, not in obedience to @AsoRock but believing the assurances of the insurgents.
Going forward, it is important to ask what is the objective of #ISWAP in this series of attacks?

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