Armed ViolenceNews

ISWAP Insurgents Redirecting Focus To Nigeria’s Urban Areas

The recent trend of urban attacks signals a dangerous shift of tactics, especially at a time when state forces have shown more competence in remote combat.

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has begun a new urban guerrilla campaign — a notable shift from its earlier strategy of operating predominantly in areas around the Lake Chad and savannah forest of northeastern Nigeria. 

According to a source familiar with the trend, the group is transitioning towards urban attacks within and outside locations that are mostly considered the epicentre of the insurgency, in a way that could lead to a surge in attacks and clashes with security forces in populated areas. 

Over the past few weeks, the terror group has carried out two bomb attacks on local bars in Taraba State in the northeastern part of the country and an attack on a police station in Kogi, a state in the north-central region

The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Kaduna and Gombe, in addition to the killing of a priest in the Iware area of Taraba and the execution of two individuals in the Kabba area of Kogi. 

This trend of urban attacks is beginning when the military has focused more on expanding ground and air capabilities toward supporting counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland areas of the northeast against Boko Haram and ISWAP. 

In the last 12 years, the insurgency has gone through several phases, including urban battles with security forces and terror attacks that had a devastating impact on communities within and outside the region. Then there was a transition to a phase where operations were largely restricted to the Sambisa and Alagarno forest areas, the Mandara Mountain range, and the Lake Chad axis. 

Although Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, continued to face a diverse range of threats, the surrounding communities bore the brunt of attacks. 

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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