A deadly mutiny broke out at ISWAP terrorists’ self-proclaimed Headquarters, located at Koyowa, a remote camp in the fringes of the Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa region, with routes stretching towards the Sahel via the Niger Republic.
Impeccable sources confirmed that the ISWAP jihadist clash occurred on Sunday, December 13th 2020, less than 24 hours after reports emerged of the appointment of a new ISWAP terrorists’ Governor of the Lake Chad region, Amir Aliyu Chakkar.
According to reports, more than 50 jihadists have died and several others seriously injured; from both loyalists and opposing units of the new Governor in a bloody shoot-out that lasted over half an hour.
The chaotic but deadly gunfight began in the presence of ISWAP supreme leader, Amir Ba-Lawan. However, reports indicated he had to be whisked out of the fighting location by his bodyguards.
The newly appointed Governor of the Lake Chad Basin region, Amir Aliyu Chakkar, also narrowly escaped assassination. However, he was saved by his loyalist commanders, including Mohammed Maluma, Ali Hussaini and Ali Musak, all high-ranking ISWAP field Commanders staunchly loyal to him.
Sources say the bloodbath was triggered by bitter disapproval of the process and selection criteria employed in the appointment of Amir Aliyu Chakkar by the Shura. Some ISWAP commanders were not happy with the little-known Amir Aliyu Chakkar to lead what has been described as the most powerful command and control position.
They envisage that by implications, he would control ISWAP operations in the entire fringes and countries of the Lake Chad Basin States; Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and the Chad Republic also expand into the Sahel region via the Niger Republic.
The opposing unit commanders fiercely argued that the appointment of Amir Aliyu Chakkar by the Shura Council was not based on merit, with some commanders pointing fingers on tribal affiliations, friendship and outright collusion pattern within the ISWAP leadership style.
The bitter rejection of Aliyu Chakkar as the new Governor by commanders of opposing units turned into a bitter brawl and an ensuing gunfight.
It will be recalled that the ISWAP Shura council had recently appointed Aliyu Chakkar as its new Governor of the Lake Chad region. The newly appointed “Governor” in his determined effort to consolidate his position, he went to Koyowa. He was spotted en route to see their supreme leader, Amir Ba-Lawan, the ISWAP leader at Koyowa, along with three of his trusted lieutenants; Mohammed Maluma, Ali Hussaini Ali Musak, all high-ranking ISWAP field Commanders.
Very reliable sources stated that while at Koyowa, the ISWAP Headquarters, Ba-Lawan handed over the Lake Chad region’s mantle of leadership to the new “Governor.” On receiving his official appointment, Chakkar has sworn to consolidate on the command and control successes recorded by late Goni Maina. He promised to sustain previous plans of launching indiscriminate attacks in the coming months; presumably December 2020 and January/February of 2021 on unconfirmed military and civilian targets.
Chakkar and his group of loyalists fighters returned to Sabon Tumbu and Jubularam for a familiarisation tour. He is reported to have proceeded to his newly established command and control base at a location named as Doron Buhari. It is situated around the north of Kirta and east of Bakkassi town, where he was received by some other key ISWAP leaders including Malam Abubakar Dan Buduma, Amir Bin Umar, and Commander Hakilu.
The announcement of his leadership tour at Doron Buhari’ command and control’ hideout camp, led to bitter disapproval and petition by some key ISWAP commanders forcing ISWAP leader – Ba Lawan to summon Aliyu Chakkar back to Koyowa for clarification. While there, fighting broke out as opposing ISWAP commanders refused to pay respect to the new warlord.
Some commanders loyal to Ba-Lawan, the newly appointed “Governor” and Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, one of the surviving sons of Boko Haram terrorists group’s founder Muhammed Yusuf, blamed the incident on commanders who still retain connections and loyalty to the disabled veteran JAS leader, Abubakar Shekau, the ‘mother group’ of ISWAP.
It will be recalled that Amir Aliyu Chakkar replaced Amir Goni Maina after the ISWAP then “Governor” was eliminated in a Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force coordinated military bombardment. Goni Maina was killed alongside more than 100 jihadists in an intelligence led parallel operation while in the process of conducting a strategic leadership and operational meetings at Sabon Tumbu, Ingilwa, Tundun Wulgo, Jubularam and Abbaganaram fringes of the Lake Chad on December 1st, 2020.
Fierce leadership disagreements leading to bloody infighting amongst ISWAP jihadist-leads to confusion, distrust, temporary suspension of coordinated planning, and a limited engagement in violent activities. Depending on the severity of the rupture and the influence of the shura council on unit commanders involved, splinter units could emerge with enthusiasm and or desperation to launch soft and hard target attacks useful for structural setup. This could lead to kidnapping for ransom, setting up of illegal road blogs, cattle rustling and other locally viable organised crime activities in their areas of operation and control.
The appointment and leadership of Amir Aliyu Chakkar by the Shura council and the ensuing bloody infighting will undoubtedly trigger a wave of planned and directed attacks against soft civilian and hard military targets. This is to consolidate his controversial appointment amongst the leadership at least. Deliberate attacks could target military positions, routes and vulnerable towns around the Timbuktu triangle and the Lake Chad basin states.
New alliances are likely to be forged with external jihadists units in the Sahel via links with Niger Republic units. From a counter-insurgency perspective, there is no better time for the Nigerian security services and regional lake chad basin states to pounce on ISWAP leadership headquarters than now. The group was experiencing low morale, confusion and operational disarray and were busy burying their dead and licking big self-inflicted wounds.
David Otto is a NATO recommended Counter Terrorism Expert and lecturer for the NATO Against Terrorism programmes at NATO School