The Invisible Forces Behind Terrorist Fighters – By: Theophilus Abbah
Oon February 4, 2022, no less than 25 terrorists, fleeing air strikes by the Nigerian army, drowned in a deep river located in the Marte axis of the Lake Chad Basin in Borno State. On February 10, 2022, a military fighter jets and helicopter gunships eliminated some bandit and terrorist leaders in Niger State. On February 11, 2022, air troops of “Operation Thunder Strike” eliminated no less than 20 armed bandits in the general area of the Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA) in Kaduna.
The military has had successes like these lately, and by my count, between February 1 and February 13, no less than 155 terrorists, consisting of bandits, Boko Haram fighters and Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP), were killed. If on average 100 terrorists are killed every two weeks, this translates to no less than 200 terrorists killed each month. In one year, the army would have eliminated up to 2,400 terrorists, and in more than 10 years since the army fought against Boko Haram, around 24,000 terrorists should have been eliminated. It’s a significant number. Far from the hypothetical figures, it is possible that in reality the army has killed more than this estimated number of terrorists since 2009. So where do the terrorists who throw bombs, massacre, maim and kidnap people come from? Why do they continue to increase like flies, while the army kills them in large numbers? How do they still control territories in Nigeria and in certain Sahelian states?
Over the past decade, the government has wasted over seven trillion naira on the security sector in its bid to root out terrorists, but they are not yet defeated. It is obvious that those who are killed by the army are mainly foot soldiers of terrorist groups, while their masterminds, the living blood of the organizations, actively remain in safety, not necessarily in bunkers, but entrenched in many sectors of the country. and beyond, to provide the funding and motivation that attract new fighters and provide the weapons to keep the battle alive. Who are those who supply the living blood that energizes the terrorists? What do they gain by maintaining the flame of terrorist attacks? Why did they escape arrest and prosecution through the long arms of Nigerian law?
To understand the situation, it is necessary to realize that the ultimate goal of Boko Haram and ISWAP is to defeat or extinguish Western civilization in Nigeria and beyond. In order to pursue this ideology, the masterminds use their political, social and economic networks to raise funds, if necessary, from the western system they abhor. In the case of al-Qaeda, before 9/11, Osama bin Laden took money from his investments in Afghanistan and Sudan to sponsor terrorist activities. Investigations have shown that the majority of companies and banks used by Bin Laden were located in Khartoum (Sudan) such as Faisal Islamic Bank, Ladin International, Taba Investment Co. Ltd, Al Themar Al Mubaraka, Al Qudarat, Islamic Bank Al Shama and he used the proceeds from them to finance terrorist activities.
Like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISWAP could benefit from networks of shell companies and corporations, shell banks and offshore trusts to raise funds, hide assets and protect the identity of financial contributors in order to protect them. Sources of finance at hand for them could be the lucrative fishing and livestock industry in the North East, as well as the thriving cross-border smuggling business, as they have access to and even control most of the roads in the Nigeria to Chad, Cameroon, to the Central African Republic (CAR). Another sector to study is the narcotics industry, which has proven to be a fundamental source of funding for terrorist groups. Various reports have proven that terrorist groups in Nigeria abuse narcotics, with some being heavily intoxicated before going into battle. Perhaps drug abuse is just a cosmetic aspect of their involvement with narcotics. There is probably an international drug trafficking network in which some of their masterminds are actively operating in order to raise funds to recruit and pay fighters, as well as to buy the loyalty of their spies who are spread throughout the areas they dominate .
From research, it has been discovered that illicit drug trafficking has always been the most common criminal activity in which terrorist groups engage. Groups like the FARC, Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Sendero Luminoso were deeply involved in drug trafficking. traffic. The same goes for terrorist groups that wear the garb of Islam. Then there is the multi-billion naira kidnapping economy, an easy way to generate lots of dodgy funds for terrorist activities. There are also legitimate sources of funding from their members who carry out government contracts, or those who trade with them for food products, frequent taxis, buses and motorcycles belonging to terrorist groups and their members.
Until November 2020, when United Arab Emirates (UAE) security arrested and prosecuted six Nigerians for sending funds from Dubai to Boko Haram in Nigeria, there was insufficient evidence that security agencies in the countries were looking in the direction of the role of illicit funds in financing Boko Haram. The government and military have prioritized the purchase of weapons to fight terrorist fighters. On another level, the government offered the terrorists an unsolicited amnesty, and even a pardon, which failed to reduce the terrorists’ eagerness to fight the Nigerian state. In whispers, terrorist fighters who surrendered to the military or were kicked out of terrorist camps came back with stories of how much money their commanders had to gamble. Boko Haram and ISWAP commanders buy arms, fuel, vehicle parts, food, clothing, electronics and even loyalty from renegade Nigerian fighters with cash. Thus, one of the ways to advance this fight against terrorists is not only to kill the poor fighters, many of whom are conscripted against their will and others forced to fight as slaves, but by cutting off the various flows financing of terrorist groups. And that could only be achieved through diligent, deliberate and forensic financial investigation.
Nigeria needs to develop local measures to track illicit funds. Where do all the dollars and naira that the kidnappers extort from the victims come in? Why is it possible for Boko Haram and ISWAP to continue to replenish their stockpile of weapons? Why is it possible for terrorists to continue recruiting fighters, including very young ones? What are they doing to maintain the loyalty of the fighters? I think it’s the posers who should dominate discussions and strategies on how to deal with the intractable insurgency. As the government buys sophisticated weapons from the West, it is important to follow the path of countries that have tracked illicit financial flows to terrorist groups and successfully cut them off. We could learn from Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, etc., which used a combination of technologies, diligent but discreet investigations , to cut the live wires of terrorist groups. Unless and until the fight against terrorists deliberately targets those who provide sustained political, logistical and financial support to terrorist networks, former Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai’s prophetic statement that Boko Haram will persist as the country’s temptation for another two decades comes true. We must fight the invisible forces that pay terrorists to keep fighting.
Abbah wrote from Abuja.