AFRICA/NIGERIA - On the shores of Lake Chad: Dozens dead in fighting between Boko Haram and the Islamic State

Wednesday, 17 January 2024 terrorism   jihadists   displaced persons   bishops  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - Violent clashes broke out between Boko Haram and militants from the Islamic State - West Africa Province (ISWAP) on the shores of Lake Chad, on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. The fighting broke out on January 15 on the islands of Kandahar and Kaduna Ruwa, off the shores of Lake Chad in Kukawa, near Nigeria's border with Cameroon, when ISWAP militias launched an attack on the camp of Abou Hurayra, the leader of the Buduma wing of Boko Haram. The ISWAP militiamen arrived in seven canoes and fought a battle that lasted about an hour and left dozens of fighters on both sides dead. The ISWAP suffered the heaviest casualties as only two of the seven canoes returned to base, according to the Nigerian press. ISWAP was formed in 2015 when then Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and Boko Haram was renamed ISWAP. As a result, there were divisions at the top and Shekau was removed from the leadership of the organization. Shekau took over leadership of his own group, which reassumed the name Boko Haram and came into conflict with the Islamic State. In May 2021, ISWAP fighters managed to track down and surround Shekau, who chose to commit suicide by detonating his explosive vest rather than surrender to the rival group. Also in 2021, the central leadership of the Islamic State (in Syria and Iraq) proposed to ISWAP to create four caliphates in Borno, northeastern Nigeria, to oversee their activities in and around the Lake Chad Basin. The proposed caliphates were Lake Chad, Sambisa (the forest in Borno where Boko Haram fighters traditionally hide), Timbuktu (not to be confused with the city of the same name in Mali, but the local nickname for the Alagarno Forest) and Tumbuma, each of which was to be administered by a governor (wali). These four caliphates should have been united around the Lake Chad Caliphate and administered by a Shura Council (consultative assembly) and an Amirul Jaish (military leader). The Lake Chad basin has thus become the epicenter of ISWAP actions and clashes with rivals Boko Haram, affecting not only northeastern Nigeria but also the northern region of Cameroon. On January 13, at the conclusion of their 47th assembly, the bishops of Cameroon denounced the "horrible acts of the Boko Haram sect in the northernmost region" and expressed "their deepest sympathy for the victims." The terror group's violence has left at least 320,000 refugees from Cameroon driven out of the region. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 17/1/2024)