ISIS claims Nigeria soldiers killed in Gajiram attack

Islamic State claimed fighters from its West Africa Province affiliate killed 10 Nigerian soldiers and injured others in an attack on a military base in Gajiram in the Lake Chad area of Borno state, in the third attack in the area in the last week.

In a statement released on Thursday, ISIS claimed ISWAP fighters captured six four-wheel drive vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and burned an armored vehicle in the attack on a Nigerian Army base in Gajiram on Wednesday, September 4.

The Nigerian military has not yet commented on the alleged incident, but Sahara Reporters late on Wednesday reported a local vigilante source as saying that insurgents had entered Gajiram, the headquarters of Nganzai local council area, at around 5 p.m. local time (GMT).

The militants killed two civilians, burned part of the Divisional Police Headquarters and a telecommunications mast, and captured one police and three military vehicles, according to the report.

Update September 5 Citing security sources and residents, AFP reported that ISWAP fighters attacked Gajiram on both Wednesday and Thursday, killing three soldiers and a police officer.

The insurgents first attacked the town on Wednesday, forcing troops and police officers to withdraw, according to the residents.

They drove into the town around 4 p.m., “firing indiscriminately,” Gajiram resident Abdu Goni said.

“They burnt down the police station and took away four military vehicles and another one belonging to the police,” Goni said.

ISWAP fighters returned at 1 a.m. on Thursday morning in nine all-terrain trucks fitted with machine guns and engaged troops and police officers in a gun battle, AFP reported.

Goni said the militants “killed three soldiers and a policeman without harming any civilians” when they returned on Thursday, adding that another military pickup truck was seized in the second attack.

“The terrorists killed three soldiers and a policeman in the attack,” a security source told AFP.

“They seized five military vehicles including a mine-resistant armoured truck and a police van in the attack,” said the source who asked not to be identified as he was not authorised to speak on the incident.

Gajiram is around 70 km (44 miles) north of Borno state capital Maiduguri.

ISWAP began to intensify attacks on Nigerian military targets in July 2018, and the Lake Chad area, where it is the dominant insurgent group, has seen particularly fierce fighting.

On August 30, at least three Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ISWAP ambush between Gajiram and Monguno. Two military sources told AFP that eight troops had been killed, but the Nigerian Army later said that only three were killed and eight others injured.

Insurgents attacked the town again four days later, according to reports. Four people were killed and 21 women were abducted in an attack attributed to “Boko Haram,” Daily Trust reported, adding that nine of the women had later escaped.

ISWAP hit Gajiram hard on June 17, with ISIS claiming 12 Nigerian solders were killed and others injured when a Nigerian Army base in Gajiram was attacked. A statement said armored vehicles and four-wheel-drive vehicles were destroyed and the base was burned. Security sources and residents told AFP that 15 soldiers were killed.

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009, but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.

Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One, led by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa Province.

The U.S. assesses that Boko Haram and ISWAP have been responsible for more than 35,000 deaths since 2011. More than two million people have been displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.

The regional Multinational Joint Task Force, which comprises personnel from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria, launched Operation Yancin Tafki on February 21 to battle the insurgents. It has said the cross-border operation is aimed at “making islands and other settlements in Lake Chad untenable for Boko Haram Terrorists.” MNJTF troops have engaged militants in Nigeria, Niger and Chad.

With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on September 5.

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