Islamic State continues its rampage in northeastern Nigeria

Over the past few days, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has continued its campaign against the Nigerian military in northeastern Nigeria with three major claims in as many days.

Earlier today, ISWA claimed a major assault on the Nigerian military near the small village of Buni Gari in Yobe State. The jihadist group claimed it killed 17 soldiers in an attack on their barracks near the town. Nigerian media has confirmed the offensive took place, however, officials have downplayed the situation by reporting only two soldiers killed.

Buni Gari was previously controlled by the group in 2014 when it was still under the unified leadership of Abubakar Shekau.

Another major strike was claimed yesterday when the Islamic State reported its men targeted the Nigerian military in Arege near Lake Chad. According to the jihadist group, “dozens were killed or wounded” in the assault. The wide-scale attack, which took place on Nov. 30, was confirmed by the Nigerian military, but it again downplayed the situation by claiming only one soldier was killed.

In addition to targeting the military in Arege, ISWA reported its forces were in control over the town after the Nigerian military fled. This claim is difficult to confirm, but if it is indeed true, it would be the second town in two weeks to have been captured by the Islamic State in Nigeria. Last week, ISWA claimed its men captured Kangarwa also in Nigeria’s Borno state. However, unlike last week, ISWA has not yet released any visual proof to confirm its men hold Arege.

On Dec. 1, the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency reported ISWA forces killed eight Nigerian soldiers near the town of Gambaru, which is also in Borno state close to the Lake Chad region. While this claim was not confirmed in Nigerian media, Gambaru is often targeted by the jihadist group.

The three Islamic State claims follow several weeks of successful jihadist attacks against the Nigerian military and state. On Nov. 22, Reuters reported that over 100 Nigerian soldiers were killed in combat with ISWA since Nov. 18. Several claims and picture sets have been released by ISWA showing these assaults. Additionally, over the past few months ISWA has claimed several strikes on the Nigerian military, largely in the Lake Chad region.

These offensives show that the jihadist group still retains the capabilities to mount large-scale successful attacks on the Nigerian military. These setbacks serve to disprove the notion of the Nigerian government of ISWA’s defeat. In addition, it is still capable of taking over and controlling territory despite many claims by the Nigerian government of its lack of capabilities to do so.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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