-by David Otto
A deadly mutiny broke out at Islamic State West Africa Province (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 over the weekend, less than 24 hours after reports emerged of the appointment of a new ISWAP 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 camps 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, who was reportedly whisked out of the fighting location by his bodyguards.
The newly appointed Governor of the Lake Chad Basin region, Chakkar, is said to have also narrowly escaped assassination as 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.
The Immediate Trigger
Sources say the bloodbath was triggered by bitter disapproval of the process and selection criteria employed in the appointment of Chakkar by the Shura Council as some ISWAP commanders were not happy to see the little-known Chakkar 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 expanding into the Sahel region via the Niger Republic.
The opposing unit commanders fiercely argued that the appointment of Chakkar by the Shura Council was not based on merit, with some commanders insinuating tribal affiliations, friendship and outright collusion within the ISWAP leadership circle. The bitter rejection of Chakkar as the new Governor by commanders of opposing units turned into a bitter brawl and gunfight.
Background to the Crisis
It will be recalled that after the ISWAP Shura council recently appointed Chakkar as its new Governor of the Lake Chad region, in a determined effort to consolidate his position, he went to Koyowa, enroute to see their supreme leader, Amir Ba-Lawan, the ISWAP leader at Koyowa, the ISWAP Headquarters, where 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 and 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.
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 Chakkar replaced late Goni Maina after the ISWAP former “Governor” was killed in a Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force coordinated military bombardment. Maina died alongside more than 100 other jihadists in an intelligence led operation while in the process of conducting a strategic leadership and operational meetings at some camps in the fringes of the Lake Chad on December 1st, 2020.
Possible Immediate Impact
Fierce leadership disagreements leading to bloody infighting amongst ISWAP jihadist could cause 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 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, experts believe 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 is experiencing low morale, confusion and operational disarray and busy burying their dead and licking big self-inflicted wounds.