Islamic State fighters temporarily capture Nigerian military base, force residents to flee

Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015.
Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. | Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

Militants believed to be aligned with the Islamic State temporarily overran a town and military base near Lake Chad in Nigeria’s troubled Borno state, forcing many residents to flee for their lives as the rise of extremism continues to plague the northeast part of the West African country. 

Brig. Gen. Sagir Musa, the director of the Nigerian Army’s public relations unit, said in a statement shared by the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday that military troops were able to regain control of the Marte area of Borno following an attack by extremists believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State West Africa Province. 

The attack, which security sources said was claimed by the Islamic State terrorist group through its Amaq News Agency, occurred Friday and drove military personnel from the area. 

The Islamic State claimed to have killed seven people and captured one. The terror group also claimed that aligned fighters seized weapons, ammunition and at least six vehicles. The group additionally claimed to have burned down an Army barracks. 

Reuters reports that the assault came about two months after residents, who had earlier been driven from their homes due to attacks by extremists, had returned home under a government program. 

In a statement last weekend, the Nigerian Army said that its troops “tactically withdrew” in order to defend against an attack outside of Marte. 

AFP notes that extremist fighters tried to attack Marte earlier last week but were repelled by military forces. The militants regrouped with more fighters for Friday’s overnight raid. Sources stated that Friday’s raid was seen as a “fightback” after military troops recently overran an ISWAP camp in Talala village. 

In the Marte attack, sources told Reuters that most residents fled to the nearby Dikwa local government area or to Borno’s capital, Maiduguri.

The Nigerian Army regained control of the military base on Sunday morning after what has been described as “intense fighting,” sources told AFP

Musa told the media that the Air Task Force played a large role in pushing the terrorists out of the region, which included the destruction of seven militant gun trucks as well as the killing of several jihadis. 

Sources confirmed on Sunday to AFP that jihadis had left the town. However, the sources confirmed that the militants reportedly burned the barracks and stole weaponry and vehicles. 

Sources also confirmed that seven soldiers were killed and eight others were captured. 

The attack comes as ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 and is based in the Lake Chad area, continues to wreak havoc on communities in northeast Nigeria. 

Along with ISWAP, the existence of Boko Haram, radical Fulani herders in Nigeria’s Middle Belt and armed bandits elsewhere in Nigeria have made life difficult and dangerous for many Nigerians. 

The United Nations estimates that nearly 3 million Nigerians have been forced to flee from their homes due to the violence. 

In December, the U.S. State Department under President Trump listed Nigeria on its list of “countries of particular concern,” a designation that identifies countries where governments tolerate or engage in violations of religious freedom. 

A U.S.-led coalition largely eradicated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria after the terrorist group gained control of large swaths of territory in those two countries. However, critics contend that the international community is not doing enough to combat the presence of Islamic State extremists who are terrorizing and expanding in Africa.

Various regions of Africa have noticed steep escalations in terrorism in recent years, such as the Sahel countries and Mozambique in southern Africa. 

As estimates suggest that as many as 2,200 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2020, Nigeria is ranked as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List. 

“More Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country,” an Open Doors factsheet reads. “Violent attacks by Boko Haram, Hausa-Fulani Muslim militant herdsmen, ISWAP (an affiliate of the Islamic State group) and other Islamic extremist groups are common in the north and Middle Belt of the country, and are becoming more common farther south.”

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