Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Air Force base


Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, launched a major attack on a Nigerian Air Force base in the insurgency-wracked city of Maiduguri. A number of security personnel were killed and several aircraft were destroyed during the nighttime attack that is said to have been executed by hundreds of Boko Haram fighters.

Hundreds of fighters assaulted the base on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, using trucks and even a stolen armored personnel carrier, beginning at 2:30 a.m. local time, according to The Associated Press. Boko Haram fighters yelled "Allahu akbar" as they attacked.

According to Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, the Ministry of Defense spokesman, at least 20 security personnel and 24 insurgents were killed, while two helicopters and three decommissioned military aircraft were "incapacitated." Boko Haram's use of explosives and RPGs has been confirmed.

A Nigerian Federal Aviation Authority official who did not want to be named said that an attempt to burn down the Maiduguri Airport failed. Boko Haram fighters torched the main headquarters building and a police checkpoint at the main gate. Heavy damage to civilian areas outside of the base was also reported.

As a result of the attack, President Goodluck Jonathan has called for an emergency security meeting in Abuja. A 24-hour curfew has been imposed on the city, including a total ban on movement in or out.

The attack in Maiduguri is reminiscent of others by al Qaeda's allies on air forces bases in other theaters of the war. Two of the more prominent attacks over the past several years include the Afghan Taliban's assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand in September 2012 (two US Marines were killed, and six Harriers were destroyed and two more were damaged); and the Pakistani Taliban's attack on Pakistani Naval Station Mehran in Karachi (10 Pakistani troops were killed, and two US-made P-3C Orion maritime surveillance planes were destroyed and another was damaged).

Boko Haram's assault on the base in Maiduguri took place less than three weeks after the US government added the terror group and Ansuru, a splinter faction, to its list of terrorist organizations. Two days after the designation, the emir of Ansuru called the head of al Qaeda his "emir."

Today's attack also takes place just one week after the Nigerian military claimed it cleared the terror group from bases in the Sambisa forest. The military said that more than 100 Boko Haram fighters were killed during the assault.

Boko Haram has conducted numerous terror attacks in Nigeria since the group began waging a low-level insurgency against the Nigerian government four years ago. Major clashes between the two broke out in northern Nigeria during the summer of 2009. Police killed hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, and Mohammad Yusuf, the leader, was captured and then executed. Abubakar Shekau, the group's current emir, continued to attack the state and demand that sharia, or Islamic law, be imposed in the country.

The Nigerian terror group has carried out numerous suicide attacks since its founding. The targets have included churches, newspapers, government officials, and security forces. The most high-profile suicide attack targeted the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in August 2011.

Boko Haram is part of the global jihad

Boko Haram has also expanded its propaganda efforts to show solidarity with al Qaeda and its affiliates. In July 2010, Shekau issued an online statement praising al Qaeda and offering condolences to al Qaeda of Iraq for its loss of Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdadi. He also threatened the United States.

"Do not think jihad is over," Shekau said. "Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury."

In December 2012, Shekau praised al Qaeda and said he and his fighters support the global jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, and Mali.

Documents seized at Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011 showed that top-level Boko Haram leaders have been in touch with al Qaeda, according to The Guardian. Boko Haram is known to receive support from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and from Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa.

In August 2013, it was reported that Boko Haram was among a number of jihadist groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, that participated in a series of communications with the top leadership of al Qaeda, which included Ayman al Zawahiri and Nasir al Wuhayshi, al Qaeda's general manager.



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READER COMMENTS: "Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Air Force base"

Posted by Gerry at December 2, 2013 8:48 PM ET:

I'm sorry, I am 65 years old and haven't seen a bit of change in many of Africa s countries since they had tribal warfare in the 1950's and 60's and used machetes and spears and now use AK47s and RPGs.

The leadership continues to keep a weak military so they won't be overthrown while they steal every penny from the country while the natives become restless.

Then the west becomes involved to help them out but only become the bad guys for doing so.

Any progressives out there who want to comment?

Posted by Matt at December 2, 2013 11:46 PM ET:

It is only a problem if it a large coordinated effort to sieze all air bases to deny other bases air support so they can be overrun and you call in a broken arrow. If you interlocking fields of fire, between the FOB, air bases and fire bases you limit the damage. If it is a full blown Tet style offensive then as with Afghanistan you need a carrier floating offshore to provide air support to the airbases preventing then from being over run, in which case they got the back of the firebases who got the back of the FOB. Sweet.

Posted by Jersey Dave at December 3, 2013 8:47 PM ET:

I hate to say it but I agree with Gerry. Unless something is done to fix the systemic problems, it will hurt the effort to fight the terror problem. The problem with the terrorists is that as insane as their ideology is, it is a concentrated ideology with tactics and goals.

When the rest of the folks unify around common principles, they can crush these terrorists. However they must not only have something to rally around, but as Gerry says, effective leadership, and the promise of security with someone to protect them as they protect someone else.

Of course an airbase attack can happen anywhere, one did in Afghanistan a while back too, and was only repulsed with heroic effort.

Posted by Jon Ogburn at December 7, 2013 8:48 AM ET:

Gerry actually Nigeria has a fairly large military and defense spending is large on their budget, the problem is more Nigeria's large number of languages and ethnic groups (at least 250), the divide between Muslim and Christian, and the uneven distribution of wealth and resources.

Posted by Usiobaifo at December 10, 2013 3:03 AM ET:

From all indications,boko haram started as a home grown terorrist group and their rude continuance has attracted external support from their allies and other countries envious of Nigeria