Fighting In Damboa
on 5th August 2014, elements of the 7th Infantry Division, Nigerian Army, backed by light attack jets of the Nigerian Airforce, commenced an assault to dislodge combined Boko Haram forces in control of Damboa Town and surrounding areas in Damboa Local Government Area (LGA), of Borno State, that the insurgents captured earlier in July.
At the same time, the insurgents captured their second local government seat and urban settlement in WarZone South, when they seized Gwoza Town (population 72,000) the headquarters of the LGA of the same name and some 30-40km from the Cameroonian border.
The military assault on Damboa followed the Damboa-Maiduguri Highway. Sources estimated that the military force was around 850 soldiers including 160 Special Forces operators (trained by US Special Forces- 10th Special Forces Group, and American Private Military Contractors paid for by the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, and interestingly, Homeland Security.
The insurgents on the other hand, had an estimated 1,000 fighters inside Damboa Town and some 3,000 men, in the other parts of the LGA. Insurgent forces were drawn strictly from Ansorul-Muslimiin and Harakatul-Muhajiriin.
In a sign of the insurgents adaptability and symbiosis, sources tell me that the fighters originally in charge of defending Damboa were from the Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah of Sheikh Bukar, but they were pulled out on Friday 1st August and deployed to fight in the Gwoza battlefield, while the bulk of Ansorul-Muslimiin and Harakatul-Muhajiriin forces ( probably 10,000 or 12,000 men combined total) were pulled out of the Cameroon Front, the Mandara Mountains and other areas of Northeast Nigeria, to hold, defend and consolidate insurgent controlled territory i.e WarZone South
The strategic reasoning behind the current offensive of the Boko Haram/Yusufiyya in Northern Cameroon and WarZone South is simple. The insurgents are creating ’liberated’ territory inside Nigeria, and establishing their authority on the ground. And after realizing that their policy of not antagonizing Yauonde was not paying off (since Cameroon under intense French, American and Nigerian pressure has been preparing to flush out the rear bases of Ansorul-Muslimiin and Harakatul-Muhajiriin from its territory), the insurgents have opened a second front in Cameroon and carrying out a long prepared contingency plan to destabilize Northern Cameroon and secure their rear bases.
Calculating that Cameroon cannot withstand the pressure of fighting a sophisticated and rapidly growing insurgency, they are turning up the heat in Northern Cameroon gradually. Some sources say if Paul Biya (Cameroon’s President) does not take the not-so-subtle hint, Harakatul-Muhajiriin (undoubtedly the elite of the four Yusufiyya groups) may create a proxy Cameroonian militancy out of its several hundred Cameroonian operatives it has recruited and trained for fighting in Nigeria, and unleash it on Yaoude.
To be able to transition from insurgent forces to alternative states (like Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communists did in Yunnan during the Chinese Civil War and World War II), the rebels need to be able to move their camps and forces from Cameroon back cross the border to Nigeria (WarZone South), and they also need to be able to draw supplies and have a line of retreat/safe zone where they can always move back into inside Cameroon if their ‘liberated’ territories are ever in danger of being overrun by Nigerian forces. To establish facts-on-the-ground or de facto sovereign territory, which from all indications is Southern Borno and South Yobe (while their fellow Yusufis-whom they are wary of- Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah of Abubakar Shekau replicate the same strategy in North Yobe and parts of Northern Borno), the trio of Ansorul-Muslimiin, Harakatul-Muhajiriin and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah (Sheikh Bukar Al-Barnawi) need to hold on to Damboa (which cuts off Maiduguri from South Borno), and Gwoza (which provides the most hardened and secure route –from a military perspective- into Cameroon, as the Nigerian Military is non-existent in these areas save some few outposts, while the terrain is mountainous and easily held).
The Nigerian Army assault on Damboa Town began before daylight on Tuesday 5th August 2014, with Special Forces (Nigerian Army) raids on insurgent outposts at the approaches of the town. Forewarned about the military’s battle plan, the Joint Yusufiyya commander of the town’s defenders, said by my sources to be Abu Musa Al-Jaali As-Sudani (real names unknown) a Sudanese commander in Harakatul-Muhajiriin, ordered a retreat from the indefensible outposts to the more defendable , while he and his men prepared to engage the attacking soldiers. The Special Forces raids were followed by aerial bombardment of rebel-held positions inside the town and surrounding areas by the 79 Composite Group and the 75th Strike Group of the Nigerian Airforce based in Maiduguri, which lasted thirty minutes.
The initial ground assault by the infantrymen of 7th Infantry Division backed by AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) and half a dozen T-55s/T-64s was engaged by the insurgents at Duniyari, and after several hours of fighting in which the insurgents employed RPG-7s (according to an Army source) and a few 9K11 Malyutka (NATO reporting name AT-3 Sagger) anti-tank missiles, the Army’s attack was repulsed. However this was a feint attack.
A simultaneous prong (containing the main force) was also launched at the time the Duniyari engagement began. Under aerial, gunship and artillery fire the advancing soldiers succeeded in entering Damboa Town, but met stiff resistance from the insurgents who used booby traps, RPGs, snipers and IEDs to slow the soldiers before fighters opened fire on them from inside houses (abandoned by their residents) and courtyard, and also from heavily entrenched positions. Using 12.5mm and 57mm Anti-Aircraft Artillery guns, rebels rendered impotent the air cover the Nigerian Airforce was providing to the Army (the NAF uses mostly Dornier Alpha Jets, MEB-339s, L-39s and F-7s, a few of the MEB-339s and Alpha Jets were the air cover for the battle, two were reportedly damaged by ground Triple A fire).
Despite Nigerian Government sponsored disinformation, sources on both sides confirm that 70% of Damboa Town is under rebel control, 10% is held by the Army, while 20% is contested.
However the situation is still very fluid and can change at any time. But as now, the whole of Damboa Town and surrounding areas are controlled by the rebels except the highway to Maiduguri.
NB: On the evening of Friday 8th and the morning of Saturday 9th insurgent counter-attacks pushed the Army out of Damboa totally and resulted in a retreat by the soldiers to Government-held positions along the highway to Maiduguri the state capital. Two US Army advisors were reportedly present at during the Nigerian Army’s assault, along with an unidentified American ‘civilian’ who was introduced as ‘William Reid’.
While the men of the Nigerian Armed Forces are capable and willing of developing and sustaining an offensive (on paper) to recapture and recover areas lost to the rebels, they suffer from a lack of so many things including weapons, intelligence, manpower, funding and dedicated strategists and tacticians. Also the entire counter-insurgency/war-effort is being run by the clueless political class taking lessons and directives from the US, Israel, Britain and France, and having no idea of the strategic disaster facing Nigeria should the insurgents win.
Right now the insurgents are still trying to decide what they are and what they want. They do not know if they want to conquer the whole of Nigeria and establish their rule, they are not even sure what their rule is; if it is full-scale Shariah or some form of Shariah. They are in a strategic dilemma. Much as Ansorul-Muslimiin was formed to defend Muslims against plots by Christian militias backed American Christian Zionist Churches, the Israeli Mossad and fanatic Nigerian Christians, it does not know what to do in relation to the Christians, should it fight all Christians or only some Christians.
Even Shekau the leader of the most hardline of all the Yusufiyya groups faces this same strategic dilemma, he is also confused on whether to conquer the whole of Nigeria or a portion of it to create an ‘Islamic’ State, or if to fight to take the whole Northern Nigeria or just the Borno-Yobe axis. He doesn’t also know if to kill all the Christians in his territory or to expel them or to kill some of them to keep the others in line. He is still confused whether to wage war on all the Muslims who oppose him or not. Thus you have a situation where should somehow the Nigerian Government folds and these people find themselves in Abuja at this point in time, they do not know what to do. This leaves them vulnerable to manipulation, especially the less brutal trio of Khalid Al-Barnawi, Bukar Al-Barnawi and Abu Usamah Al-Ansori who may amenable to a political settlement that gives Shariah Law equal constitutional status with English Common Law which is rooted in Medieval Christianity, and that also gives them an equal share of political and military power.
However this situation cannot be taken advantage of in any way by the authorities as the entire counter-insurgency has been politicized completely by the incompetent political class. Content in looting defence and security budgets, while playing politics with the whole war effort and dancing to the American/Western/Israeli tune, they are assisted by equally incompetent, greedy, self-serving military and security chiefs appointed into office as thank-you rewards for their unflinching support of the ruling party (the PDP) and its policies. Unfortunately the main opposition party the APC, is as bad as the PDP. Utterly in the grip of the US (like most Nigerian establishments) it is made up mostly of the same corrupt and incompetent political actors who were infuriated when they were left out of some lucrative looting schemes and out of anger jumped ship to join forces with General Muhammad Buhari (widely respected and regarded as the only honest politician), to take advantage of his popularity.
While the whole war effort is being coordinated by incompetents and the professional officers corps either sidelined or laid-off, the insurgents are reportedly massing up forces and gaining more ground in Biu, Kaga, Askira-Uba, Chibok and Hawul LGAs, and preparing to push the Army out of these areas once and for all.
Once the Damboa and Gwoza battles are decisively completed, I expect the rebels to seize Chibok, Biu and Askira-Uba in slow but steady offensives, starting by clearing the small villages before moving in to push out the Army from the towns, before swinging their shock troops to consolidate their hold on their rear bases in Cameroon’s Far North. Already Biu and Askira-Uba LGAs are 90% under their control, save Askira Town in Askira-Uba LGA and Biu Town, Sabon Layi and Mangada Kallari in Biu LGA.
The Battle of Gwoza began on Tuesday 5th August 2014, around 9:00pm. Hundreds of Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah/Sheikh Bukar fighters assaulted the town and headquarters of Gwoza LGA of Borno State in Toyota Pickups and armoured vehicles. The rebels first attacked the military base and police station, overrunning them and capturing some military and police personnel, before seizing the rest of the town and clearing the area of CJTF (Civilian Joint Task Force) militiamen. Scores of people marked by insurgent spies as collaborators and government spies were either killed or bundled into trucks and driven towards Damboa.
Most of the residents of the town have fled into the surrounding 1300m high Gwoza Hills or the higher Mandara Mountains. By 4:00am local time, the entire LGA was under insurgent control, with government troops forced to flee at all other outposts in the area that were attacked.
The Emir of Gwoza, the area’s traditiona head has not been seen sinced the rebels captured the town. Alhaji Muhmmad Idriss Timta replaced his father who was killed along with the Emir of Askira-Uba on May 30th, by the insurgents.
Also the bridge at Pulka south of Gwoza, has been blown by rebel demolition teams. This cuts off Gwoza and thus Bama LGA from Adamawa State to the south. With the fall of Gwoza Town and environs, Gwoza, Bama and Damboa LGAs are now fully under insurgent control, while Kaga, Chibok, Koduga, Kukawa, Marte, Ngala, Dikwa and other local government areas in Borno State (except Jere, Mafa, and Maiduguri) are heavily contested.
On 6th August 2014, Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah/Sheikh Bukar murder killed nine passengers on a bus in an exchange of fire with Cameroonian soldiers, in which a Cameroonian soldier also died. Two insurgents confirmed dead.
Cameroon is moving up to 4,000 soldiers including troops from the elite Rapid Intervention Battalion to its Far North Region to flush out Boko Haram fighters and camps in the area.
Amadou Ali the Cameroonian Vice PM whose wife was kidnapped earlier, is reported to have been targeted because he has a list of over 450 youths from Kolofata (is hometown where him and his wife were when the insurgents attempted to kidnap him but ended up taking his wife instead after he escaped into the bush), who have been recruited into the insurgency in Nigeria.
Cameroonian Intelligence confirms that some of the fighters who stormed Kolofata and kidnapped Cameroon’s Vice PM’s wife were locals who have joined the insurgents in Nigeria.
A source corroborates the involvement of Cameroonians in the insurgent groups, saying that Haraktul-Muhajiriin has emphasized on recruiting one Cameroonian, one Nigerien and one Chadian for every Nigerian it recruits, and that over the years it and Ansorul-Muslimiin have successfully recruited and trained over 3,000 Cameroonians, Nigeriens, Sudanese and Chadians, most of whom have fought in Nigeria, while several hundreds of these combat veterans have been sent home to run camps, safe houses, recruitment networks, armouries, fundraising operations etc for their organizations.