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ISWAP invasion and abductions in Kukawa

Editorial, Daily Trust, August 28, 2020

Penultimate Tuesday, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, a splinter group of the Boko Haram, overran the town of Kukawa in Borno State, taking hundreds of hostages.

The terrorists drove into the town in 22 trucks, attacking the residents and engaging a garrison of soldiers guarding the town in a fierce battle.

The residents had returned from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp on August 2, 2020, after they had fled their homes following a bloody attack in November 2018.

Their return was facilitated under a joint federal and Borno State governments operation.

Kukawa residents had returned to their homes under military escort, expecting to cultivate their farmlands and contribute to the nation’s food security needs.

But that was not to be.

The insurgents arrived to terrorise the community. And the military had to deploy Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jets to help stabilise the situation.

Generally, residents returned to five major towns in the area in 2018.

And to ensure their safety, they are mostly under military protection, with trenches and other defensive positions in place around the communities to help fend off further terrorists’ attacks.

Despite these measures, however, they kept breaching the fortifications; going on killing spree, attacking the military and other security forces, abducting people and extorting from the survivors.

The Nigerian Armed Forces, in giving its own side of the Kukawa terrorists’ invasion, said eight of the insurgents were killed as they “successfully thwarted” an attempt by the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists to scuttle the resettlement of the community.

The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj-Gen John Enenche, however, said three soldiers were killed in the attack while two others sustained various degrees of injuries.

For General Enenche, “the attack by the terrorists was therefore a deliberate attempt to reverse the milestone achievements recorded regarding IDPs in the areas of peacebuilding, reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement efforts by the government.

The situation in Kukawa is now calm with troops in full control.”

Enenche gave the assurance that the Nigerian Armed Forces would ensure the success of its struggle to see to the rebuilding and resettlement of the displaced people.

“The people of Kukawa are therefore advised to go about their normal lawful businesses without any hindrance.”

But to stay relaxed in the face of the terrorists’ attacks and repeated invasions is not easy.

On Monday, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, touched the main issue in the war against Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism when he tasked the military to deploy more of intelligence in prosecuting the ongoing counter-insurgency war.

He said at Army Super Camp 3 Buratai, in Biu Local Government Area of Borno State, that the task of dealing with the remnants of terrorists hiding in some areas must be intelligence driven.

This is the crux of the matter.

These terrorists are taking refuge in the bush, forests, hamlets and even some communities.

The military’s intelligence networks must be put to work, the insurgents’ movements must be monitored and their activities neutralised.

These attacks and repeated incursions by terrorists have become a recurring national embarrassment.

This is because each time they occur; they connote intelligence failure on the part of the nation’s security agencies.

They also show that the drones, surveillance aircraft and other gadgets hitherto touted as having been deployed to the operational area, have also failed to live up to their billing.

There is need for the Chief of Defence Staff and the Service Chiefs to really up their ante, after all, President Muhammadu Buhari has bent over backwards to support and keep them in office despite the objections of a large section of Nigerians.

The least they could do is work more to stop such embarrassments.

They continue to make the area much more insecure and obscure their accomplishment on ground.

These attacks must stop as they discourage IDPs from returning back home.

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