•New leader seeks to consolidate power
By David Otto
The new leadership of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) and members of the Shura council have executed 3 top commanders including the once most powerful jihadist warlord in-charge of all terrorists activities and operations along the Tumbus of Lake Chad axis for 4 years – Amir Baba Kaka. The ISWAP Chief Judge and his council also pronounced death sentence to Ba’a Masta, an Islamic Scholar who preached in the Tumbus and 14 others. Sources say a separate date for their execution has been fixed for July 31st 2020, immediately after Eid-El-Kabir prayers at a location given as Tunbum Kurna – Lake Chad axis.
It was previously reported that Amir Baba Kaka was sacked and replaced by Amir Goni Maina in a major ISWAP leadership shakeup following the appointment of Amir Abubakar Lawan as the new Wali of ISWAP. Amir Baba Kaka was killed at Kwalaram on the evening of Sunday 26th July 2020 along with two of his lieutenants; Amir Muhammed Lawal AKA Abba Lawal and Amir Musa. The decision to investigate and execute Amir Baba Kaka and two of his men took about four (4) weeks. The panel in charge was headed by the New Chief Judge of ISWAP, Amir Malumma and his team comprising of Malam Ibrahim, a top Boko Haram/ISWAP Scholar, Malam Sa’ad and Bako Fulgori, amongst others.
The Politics of Boko Haram/ISWAP
This is the first time in Boko Haram /ISWAP history, that the ISIS linked insurgents have conducted what appears to be a systematic political cleansing of top commanders and fighters. Ostensibly, with the aim of consolidating power and control by the most recent ISWAP leadership of Amir Abubakar Lawan and his close ally Abu Musab Al-Barnawi. Recall that the latter was one of the surviving sons of Boko Haram founder Muhammed Yusuf killed in July 2009 while in Police custody in Maiduguri – Borno State AKA the ‘Home of Peace’. It is understood that most of the top commanders executed and marked for death played a major role in the overthrow and demotion of ISIS preferred leader of West Africa Province, Abu-Musab Al-Barnawi.
Why Baba Kaka was Executed
Impeccable sources with knowledge of the proceedings confirmed that the chief Judge found Amir Baba-kaka guilty of several offences. These include; insubordination, injustice, corruption, embezzlement of taxes, instigating mutiny and extra Judicial killings. Others include failure to uphold operational command and control of jihadist camps and unit commanders during his 4 years reign as ‘governor’ of the Lake Chad Tumbus – crimes which led to splits and the death of many commanders and fighters in the hands of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force, the Chadian Army and troops from the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
According to credible sources, some of the offence of Amir Baba Kaka created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust between unit commanders and the notorious warlord with his closest allies.
Amir Baba-Kaka, was found guilty of the summary execution of one Goni Mustapha, another notorious war lord in the Tumbuns. Goni Mustapha was arrested by Abu Imrana (the late ‘3 star General’) on the directive of Baba Kaka. Despite plea from one Ali Abdullah, also a top Commander, Goni Mustapha was subjected to a gruesome execution. The “extra-judicial killing” led to massive outrage among young fighters who demanded for immediate justice.
Few months after Goni Mustapha was executed, the ‘governor’ ordered for the killing of Ba’ana Gana, an ISWAP community police commander. Two of his blood brothers named as Bulama and Muhammed had their hands amputated over unfounded allegations of robbery from one of his subjects named in the trial as Sani Gadusu.
Baba-kaka also killed Malam Ibrahim, who was an Amir of Jubularam, for alleged unremitted tax collected from locals in the area. The notorious ISWAP ‘governor’, killed a young Buduma boy named only as “Kuru” for simply getting into an argument with him.
The no-nonsense warlord ordered for the killing of one Amir Waziri – in charge of Hizbah police – for allowing his men to loot property that had been stolen from the military after an ambush attack in Marte Local Government Area (LGA).
He was also accused of murdering the ISWAP Chief Mechanic, known as Falloja, a 34-year-old, from Marte. Falloja was reputed amongst jihadists’ circles for his rare expertise in assembling and disassembling stolen military vehicles – turning them into gun-mounted trucks and Vehicle Bound Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs). The jihadist leadership was furious when Amir Baba Kaka ordered for his killing on the pretext that he was found in possession of banned substance – drugs.
The Chief Judge concluded that these accusations culminated to the overall failure of Amir Baba Kaka to organise any formidable resistance front against Nigerian, Chadian and MNJTF security and Armed Forces during ‘Operation Boma Wrath’ ‘Operation LAFIYA DOLE’ and ‘Operation Yancin Tafki’ battles.
Who Was Amir Baba Kaka
Amir Baba Kaka was an indigene of Marte LGA , Born in Yobe, Damaturu. Until his dismissal , he held the rank of the most senior Boko Haram ISWAP ‘administrator’ given the title of ‘governor’ of Lake Chad axis where his command and control base was located. Sources say he was well respected and feared amongst jihadists circles. Amir Baba Kaka (doubled as a commander with his own loyal fighters) was the direct link in the chain of command between Boko Haram/ISWAP unit commanders and the senior leadership. No unit commander had direct access to the top leadership without passing through the governor of the Tumbuns. As the governor, he was responsible for the organisation and collection of access fees and business taxation from farmers, fishermen and cattle merchants. His role was to account for all generated funds of the organisation and report to the leadership. As head of jihadist administration, he was responsible for the distribution of all funds to various unit commanders depending on the size of their fighters and planned operations. He is notorious for personally directing the June 8th attack on the Nigerian Army military base in Auno – about 25 km from Maiduguri.
He was one of the first loyalists of late Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of the Boko Haram terrorists group. Before joining the group, Baba Kaka was a contractor in Yobe state. Sources say he was the first Boko Haram commander to lead an attack in Yobe state. He also supervised the execution of students at Government Secondary School Buni Yadi in May 2014 by one Abu Fatima, a dreaded Boko Haram Commander who doubled as a close friend of Baba Kaka. Abu Fatima was later killed by Nigerian Special Forces at Buni Yadi.
Baba-kaka also led one of the deadliest Boko Haram invasions in Damaturu, where the jihadists succeeded in penetrating through the government house. He also led his jihadists unit to dislodge Bulabulin Ngarnam, Marte, Kukawa and Baga where they massacred more than 2000 people in January 2015. Baba-kaka was among the commanders that relocated with JAS leader Abubakar Shekau to Sambisa forest when they were driven out of Gwange, Maiduguri.
After the major split of the group announced by ISIS in 2016, he relocated to the Lake Chad along with Mamman Nur, Abu Musad Al-Barnawi and other top commanders – abandoning Abubakar Shekau with Boko Haram. He was first appointed as the Operations Commander of Tumbumma known as Tumbuktu in Marte when it was a self-proclaimed jihadist caliphate. He rose from the ranks of Amir, Niqab, Khaid, Munzur and Wali in the ranking of the terrorists group. Sources say Baba Kaka had about four wives and several children.
How ISIS allegiance pledge destabilised Boko Haram structure
Boko Haram ISWAP has witnessed their greatest instability, bitter splits, leadership assassinations, power struggle, coups, rise of independent factions, surrender, successful negotiations, mutiny and chaos since the jihadist group pledged allegiance and support to the Islamic State (ISIS) leadership in March 2015 and the ISWAP split of 2016. This is compared to a period before 2015 when Boko Haram jihadist experienced internal growth and a stable leadership under Abubakar Shekau when he took command and control of the group’s jihadist activities after the demise of Muhammed Yusuf in July 2009. Sources say Abubakar Shekau continues to regret and uphold his reluctance to withhold the pledging of allegiance to ISIS core.
The Nigerian military and regional forces of the MNJTF have taken intelligence led advantage of these chaos to further weaken the stability of the jihadists operating in the North East of Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin states.
Boko Haram/ISWAP jihadists witnessed one of the most deadliest ground and aerial offensives under ‘Operation Boma Wrath’ and ‘Opeartion LAFIYA DOLE ‘ launched under the direct battlefield command of President Idriss Derby and Nigerian Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai. The Chadian army and the Nigerian Army/Air Force announced that they had each killed more than 1000 Boko Haram ISWAP jihadist including unit commanders in the Lac Islands and Tumbun Jini/Gini respectively.
The impact of Amir Baba Kaka’s Execution on COIN activities
Amir Baba Kaka may have been executed by ISWAP but what happens to the fate of his loyal commanders and fighters at large and the overall impact on Counter insurgency (COIN) in the region is key. It is likely that commanders loyal to Amir Baba Kaka may form an independent group and join the ranks of several Boko Haram ISWAP unit commanders that have fallen out with the main Leadership factions and have diverted their capacity to operate in the North East and North West regions as organised Bandits using jihadists tactics. They are likely to become bandits ‘for hire’ by interest based groups and may also specialise in kidnap for ransom, looting and cattle rustling from vulnerable communities – blurring the dynamics of the crime-terror nexus in the North West and North East of Nigeria.
The intensified intelligence led COIN ground and aerial offensives by the Nigerian Army; Nigerian Air Force and regional states Chad, Niger and Cameroon must be sustained on identified jihadists hideouts. The current sustained battlefield impact is pushing a self-destruct amongst jihadist leadership setting ‘the cat amongst the pidgins’ targeting mainly Jihadist hideouts in the complex mountain and complex Islands of the Lake Chad Axis. As jihadists continue to relocate from one hideout to another, the risk of exposure and battlefield elimination increases.
Local communities must be protected under civil-military relationships with genuine and practical efforts to win the hearts and minds of the local communities – if the local population feels unprotected and in constant fear of jihadist reprisal attacks, the security and armed forces will continue to suffer battlefield deficit in timely information flow. These unsettling changes within Boko Haram ISWAP jihadist leadership presents an opportunity for all Local, State and regional hands to be on deck in the global war on terror. See something – say something.
Otto is the Director for Stepped In – Step Out UK Ltd and a Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Expert. He is a Certified Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CAS), a Certified Master Anti -Terrorism Specialist (CMAS) and a programme trainer with the Anti -Terrorism Accreditation Board (ATAB). Twitter @ottotgs Email: [email protected]