In a press statement by the Defence Headquarters, the Nigerian Air Force admits, for the first time that it has targeted a terrorist hideout linked to the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) in the Kuyanbana forest of Maru Local Government of Zamfara, northwest Nigeria.
The area has been the major transit zone for violent bands and terror groups in the region, especially the likes of Dogo Gide, who is believed by many accounts to have strong ties with the ANSARU jihadists group, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram.
“It is likely to be an ANSARU linked camp rather than ISWAP,” said a source in the military who disagrees with the statement by his colleagues, adding that “it could be any other terrorist group.”
HumAngle had earlier reported the air raid in the area that wounded Dogo Gide and other commanders, which claimed to have thwarted the plans by the group to build an enclave from where they will laugh violent campaigns in the region.
According to the defence headquarters “in continuation of the sustained onslaught against armed bandits and other criminal elements in the North-West and North-Central States of the Country, the Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI has attacked another armed bandits’ camp in the Southwestern part of Kwiambana Forest in Zamfara State, neutralizing scores of their fighters.”
The statement added that the feat was achieved “through airstrikes executed on 10 July 2020 after Human Intelligence (HUMINT) reports and series of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions established that a group of structures hidden under the dense forest vegetation served as hideouts for suspected ISWAP elements and fighters under the notorious armed bandit kingpin, Dogo Gide.”
Close observers, following developments in the northwest, have expressed concern about the military use of the word “bandits” to describe the violent activities in the region despite growing evidence, including by the military, showing otherwise.
“Dogo Gide has always been known to have close ties with ANSARU, which is an Alqaeda led group. It is surprising that the military is now associating him with ISWAP that is at war with Alqaeda linked fighters in the region,” says a security expert who does not wish to be quoted here.
The expert further said that the inconsistent classification of the armed groups in the northwest and north-central calls for concern. “It is either the security officials don’t understand the extent of the problem or they are afraid to call a spade a spade.”
Both ANSARU, ISWAP and Boko Haram led by Abubakar Shekau had all in the past said they have their fighters operating in the northwest and north-central, but none of these groups has either carried out attacks or claimed responsibility for an attack at the scale of what has been seen in the northeast.