Islamic State says it killed 20 Nigerian soldiers in shootout, executed 9 more

NigeriaThe West Africa province of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing 20 Nigerian soldiers and the execution of nine more soldiers that were captured in various operations, according to Reuters. The group behind the attacks emerged in 2002 under the name Boko Haram (“Western education is forbidden”), as part of a growing wave of anti-government sentiment in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority northern regions. In 2014, the group pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria —otherwise known as Islamic State. Since that time, Boko Haram has rebranded itself as Islamic State – West Africa Province, while a smaller faction of the group has refused to align itself with the ISIS and continues to operate under the name Boko Haram.

In an English-language statement posted online on Wednesday, the ISIS-affiliated faction of Boko Haram said that its fighters were responsible for the deaths of 20 Nigerian Army soldiers, who were killed on Monday in Gubio, a town located in Nigeria’s extreme northeastern Borno State. Reuters cited an unnamed “security source and a humanitarian worker”, who said that the insurgents attacked a military barracks on the outskirts of Gubio late on Monday evening. According to the report, the attackers used motorcycles and non-standard technical vehicles, or ‘technicals’ —open-backed pickup trucks mounting heavy weapons. The attack was followed by an hour-long shootout between the Nigerian Army forces and the insurgents, which resulted in the soldiers retreating, leaving behind the bodies of at least 15 troops, said Reuters. On Wednesday, the Islamic State released a separate video that claims to show the execution of nine captured Nigerian soldiers. According to Reuters, the soldiers in the video disclose their names, rank and unit, before they are executed by masked militants. At the end of the video, a group of Islamic State fighters is shown pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The video concludes with footage of artillery, armored vehicles and tanks, and even boats, which the Islamic State claims to have captured from the Nigerian military.

This development is bound to increase skepticism about the Nigerian government’s repeated claims that it has been able to quell the Islamist insurgency that plagued the country’s northern regions for the past 15 years. In late 2015, the Nigerian government proclaimed the end of the Islamist insurgency after its troops destroyed all of Boko Haram’s camps in Borno State. However, the group appears to have reinvented itself and to have been able to use its new affiliation with the Islamic State to attract more funding and fighters during the past two years.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 May 2019 | Permalink

Nigerian spy chief suspended after $43 million cash stash found in apartment

EFCC NigeriaThe director of Nigeria’s powerful intelligence agency has been suspended on orders of the president, after a massive stash of cash totaling $43 million was found in an apartment in Lagos. The money was discovered by investigators working for the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Based in Abuja, the EFCC is a high-profile body that was created in 2003, in response to accusations by the international community that Nigeria is used as a major base for global money-laundering schemes.

According to media reports, the money was found in a vacant apartment located in Ikoyi, arguably the most affluent neighborhood of the Nigerian capital and one of the wealthiest urban areas in Africa. The cash had been wrapped in transparent plastic sheets and hidden inside several metallic filing cabinets, as well as concealed behind a fake partition in a wooden wardrobe. According to a statement issued by the Nigerian government, the apartment was searched following tip-offs by local residents. The latter allegedly reported that a mysterious woman was seen entering or leaving the apartment with suspicious-looking bags at all hours of the day or night. Some residents told EFCC investigators that the woman may have been a man in disguise.

Government officials in Lagos said on Wednesday that the apartment belongs to the National Intelligence Agency, Nigeria’s primary intelligence organization. An investigation has therefore been launched into how the cash was accumulated in the apartment, and whether it had been authorized by intelligence officials or other government executives. In the meantime, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the immediate suspension of Ambassador Ayo Oke, who has been serving as director of the National Intelligence Agency. The ambassador is believed to be under house arrest and is not permitted to resume his professional duties until after the investigation has been completed. President Buhari has asked to be given the results of the investigation in two weeks.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 April 2017 | Permalink

Analysis: Boko Haram insurgency far from over, despite Nigerian claims

NigeriaOn Saturday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made a statement announcing that the country’s military had delivered a “final crushing” on Boko Haram’s “last enclave” deep in the Sambisa Forest. He then congratulated the Nigerian troops for “finally entering [the forest] and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents”. This is not the first time that a Nigerian head of state announces the “final crushing” of the Boko Haram insurgency. Even though Boko Haram has suffered significant territorial losses since 2014, the armed conflict that has destabilized the entire Lake Chad region for nearly a decade is far from over, and Boko Haram may even bounce back, just as it has done in the past.

Boko Haram emerged as a public-pressure group in predominantly Muslim northeastern Nigeria in 2003, stating multiple grievances against the corruption and nepotism of Nigeria’s ruling elite. In 2009, the group launched an armed insurgency against the government, with the stated aim of establishing an Islamic state ruled by sharia (Quranic law) in Nigeria’s northeast. In 2015, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, pledged the group’s allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and announced the establishment of “Islamic State West Africa Province”. Since then, the group has continued to fight the Nigerian military in a seven-year war that has killed more than 15,000 people and displaced two million more. The United Nations estimates that at least 14 million people in the Lake Chad region have been affected by the war and in immediate need of significant humanitarian assistance.

By early 2014, Boko Haram had managed to drive out all Nigerian government presence from the country’s northeastern Borno state and control an area of approximately 12,000 sq. mi. At that time, however, the Nigerian military, in association with Chadian and Nigerien forces, launched Operation LAFIYA DOLE, with the aim of recapturing Boko Haram’s territory. The operation involves thousands of Nigerian, Chadian and Nigerien ground forces, as well as airplanes and even construction crews, who built dirt roads leading deep into the Sambisa Forest in search of Boko Haram’s camps. As government forces have been advancing on all sides, Boko Haram fighters have retreated deeper into the 500-sq. mi. forest. On Saturday, the Nigerian president announced that government troops sacked Boko Haram’s “Camp Zero” and that the insurgents were desperately fleeing into the surrounding areas. There was no word about the fate of Shekau, the group’s leader. Read more of this post

Boko Haram spy network is better than Nigerian state’s, says ex-Army chief

Boko Haram NigeriaA former Chief of Staff for the Nigerian Army has said that the intelligence capabilities of Islamist group Boko Haram are “100 percent better” than those of the Nigerian military and security agencies. The comments were made on Tuesday by Theophilus Danjuma, a retired lieutenant general in the Nigerian Army, who served as the Army’s chief of staff from 1975 to 1979. Danjuma was also minister of defense from 1999 to 2003, under President Olusegun Obasanjo. Speaking in the city of Sokoto, located in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northwest region, Danjuma claimed that Boko Haram insurgents relied on surveillance and intelligence-collection capabilities that were “far superior” to those of Nigeria’s state agencies.

Boko Haram is a Sunni Islamist group that is currently active in northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and northern Cameroon. The separatist group was founded in 2002 and has since launched an armed campaign aimed at establishing an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. In 2015, the group formally declared its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Sunni militant outfit that today controls much of Syria and northern Iraq. In response to the ascendancy of Boko Haram, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in several regions of northern Nigeria, which has since been extended to cover the entirety of the country’s predominantly Muslim regions. Nearly 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state, while over 2 million are estimated to have been internally displaced.

In the summer of 2014, Boko Haram gained control of Borno, Nigeria’s northernmost state, which borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The government of Nigeria responded with a full-scale military assault, with which which managed to regain control of most of Borno. In September of this year, the Nigerian military announced that it had captured or destroyed most of Boko Haram’s military bases in Borno. But Danjuma said on Tuesday that the war against Boko Haram is only now “entering its most critical stage”, as government forces are moving into territory previously controlled by the militant group. Instead of fighting government troops face-to-face, Boko Haram militants are “disappearing into the wider civilian population and “setting up sleeper cells” with the aim of “wreaking havoc on soft targets”, said the former defense minister.

In May of last year, intelNews cited reports claiming that the United States government was “not […] sharing raw intelligence data” on Boko Haram with the Nigerian state. It was believed at the time that the lack of intelligence-sharing between the US and Nigeria was due to concerns in Washington that the Nigerian military had been infiltrated by Boko Haram members and sympathizers. In 2013, the then-president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, admitted that the country’s security services had been compromised by Boko Haram agents.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 04 November 2015 | Permalink

‘Day of the Jackal’ author reveals he was MI6 agent for 20 years

Frederick ForsythFrederick Forsyth, the esteemed British author of novels such as The Day of the Jackal, has confirmed publicly for the first time that he was an agent of British intelligence for two decades. Forsyth, who is 77, worked for many decades as an international correspondent for the BBC and Reuters news agency, covering some of the world’s most sensitive areas, including postcolonial Nigeria, apartheid South Africa and East Germany during the Cold War. But he became famous for authoring novels that have sold over 70 million copies worldwide, including The Odessa File, Dogs of War and The Day of the Jackal, many of which were adapted into film. Several of his intelligence-related novels are based on his experiences as a news correspondent, which have prompted his loyal fans to suspect that he might have some intelligence background.

But Forsyth had never commented on these rumors until last weekend, when was interviewed on the BBC’s main evening news program. He spoke to the station on the occasion of the upcoming publication of his autobiography, The Outsider: My Life, which will be in stores in October. He told the BBC that he was first recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the late 1960s while covering the Nigerian Civil War. The bloody conflict, which is also known as the Biafran War, pitted the separatist Igbo people against the Nigerian federal government. Like other military conflicts in postcolonial Africa, it attracted the attention of the world’s powers, including France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain. London was firmly on the side of the government in Lagos, but MI6 had reservations, believing that the Nigerian military forces were committing mass atrocities in Biafra. Forsyth said he was recruited by an MI6 officer who wanted to know if children were dying in Biafra as a result of the Nigerian government’s military policies against the Igbo separatists. The intelligence service were apparently hoping that they could use this information to change London’s stance on the brutal civil war. The author told the BBC that he spent the rest of the war “sending both journalistic reports to the media and other reports to my new friend”, referring to his MI6 handler.

When asked if he was paid for his services, he said his assistance to MI6 was provided on a strictly voluntary basis. “The attitude, the spirit of the age, was different back then”, he said, adding that “the Cold War was very much on” and when the British government asked a reporter for a favor it was “very hard to say no”. He did say, however, that MI6 promised to approve passages of some of his novels by way of payment. The author of The Day of the Jackal said he was given a number to call and told to send MI6 his manuscripts for vetting. “If they are too sensitive, we will ask you not to continue”, Forsyth told the BBC.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 31 August 2015 | Permalink

US hesitant to share Boko Haram intel with Nigerian government

Boko Haram militantsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
United States military officials said on Tuesday that the Pentagon is not “at this point” sharing intelligence on the Boko Haram militant group with the Nigerian government. Last month, members of the armed group, which campaigns for an Islamist state in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, abducted at least 200 teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok, a primarily Christian village located in the northeast of the country. Since then, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has threatened to kill or sell the girls as slaves unless the government of Nigeria releases Boko Haram prisoners. In the past week, the US has become directly involved in the search for the missing girls. On Monday, the US Department of Defense deployed fixed-wing aircraft on a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions concentrating on Boko Haram strongholds in the northeast of the country, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Meanwhile, 30 American advisers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Department of State, are already in Nigerian capital Abuja, assisting in the search for the kidnap victims. American media has reported that the US Department of State is now sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government in the context of the search. However, the Pentagon said that it is not “at this point […] sharing raw intelligence data” on Boko Haram with the Nigerian government. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, refused to discuss the precise reasons why the Pentagon is withholding intelligence data from the Nigerian military. There is speculation, however, that the decision may be related to fears in Washington that the notoriously corrupt Nigerian military may have been infiltrated by Boko Haram members and sympathizers. Read more of this post

Hezbollah cell ‘connected with Boko Haram’ arrested in Nigeria

Weapons cache discovered in KanoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nigerian authorities have announced the arrest of three alleged members of Lebanese group Hezbollah, following the discovery of a large weapons and explosives cache in northern Nigeria. Representatives of the West African country’s military and the State Security Service said on Thursday that three Lebanese nationals had been arrested between May 16 and 28. They were identified as Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda, with the latter being a dual Nigerian-Lebanese citizen. They are accused of being members of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that controls large swathes of Lebanese territory. All were reportedly arrested in Kano city, northern Nigeria’s most notable commercial center, which is home to a substantial Lebanese community of merchants. Nigerian security forces raided a warehouse adjacent to a residence belonging to a Lebanese national, where they discovered a hidden underground bunker below the master bedroom. In there they found and confiscated large quantities of assorted weapons, including a dozen anti-tank rockets, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with 21 missiles, 19 AK-47 and submachine guns, as well as 76 grenades. Nigerian government representatives told local journalists on Thursday that the cache was “a Hezbollah armory” belonging to “a cell of Hezbollah”. A few hours later, officials of Israel’s Counter Terrorism Bureau (CTB) said Tel Aviv was aware of the Nigerian government’s operation. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #812

Yasser ArafatBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia to help probe Yasser Arafat’s death. Russia will join an international investigation to determine whether the first Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, was murdered, the current Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has said. French and Swiss experts are due to exhume Arafat’s body in Ramallah later this month in an attempt to discover how he died after an al-Jazeera documentary in July suggested he was killed by a rare radioactive poison. Abbas asked Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov for Moscow’s help during talks in Jordan, Palestinian sources said.
►►Revisiting the foiled 1984 Nigerian kidnap plot. In London in 1984, a team of Nigerians and Israelis attempted to kidnap and repatriate the exiled former Nigerian minister Umaru Dikko. Mr. Dikko, who had fled Nigeria after a military coup, was accused of stealing $1bn (£625m) of government money. The plot was foiled by a young British customs officer and, as a result, diplomatic relations between the UK and Nigeria broke down and were only fully restored two years later. The Nigerian and Israeli governments have always denied involvement in the kidnapping.
►►Putin congratulates KGB double spy on his birthday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated famous double agent George Blake on his 90th birthday, the Kremlin press office has said. Blake betrayed British intelligence starting in the 1950s; he was found out in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison. But he escaped five years later using a ladder of rope and knitting needles, made his way to the Soviet Union and has been living out his last years serenely in a cottage outside Moscow. After his escape from the Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, he was smuggled to Berlin in a wooden box in the back of a van. In the interview published last week, he said he then presented himself to border guards in East Berlin, asked to speak to a Soviet officer, and when told to wait, immediately fell into a deep sleep.

‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander […] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

Australian special forces secretly operating in Africa, says newspaper

Special Air Service RegimentBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
One of Australia’s most prominent newspapers suggested in a leading article yesterday that a secret Australian special forces squadron has been illegally conducting espionage operations in several African countries during the past year. According to Melbourne-based The Age, the 4 Squadron of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) has been deployed in “dozens of secret operations” during the past 12 months, in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Members of 4 Squadron have been operating dressed in civilian clothing, carrying forged identity papers, and with strict instructions to deny any connection with SASR if captured, said The Age. Although the existence of 4 Squadron has never been officially acknowledged, the unit is believed to have been established in 2004 or 2005, and is currently thought to be based at Swan Island in Victoria, north of the town of Queenscliff. Its initial mission was to provide armed protection to officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) whenever the latter are deployed in warzones or other exceptionally dangerous overseas environments. But 4 Squadron’s missions in Africa, which The Age says were authorized in 2010 by then Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, do not include ASIS officers, and instead require SASR members to act both in a military and civilian capacity in espionage assignments. According to the paper’s allegations, 4 Squadron missions have involved regular assessment and evaluation of inter-African border control standards, developing scenarios for evacuating Australians, mapping out landing sites for possible military interventions, and gathering first-hand intelligence on local politics and the activities of insurgents. The paper claims that the scope and breadth of 4 Squardon’s African assignments have raised concerns within the SASR, with some senior officials viewing the unit’s actions as “a possibly dangerous expansion of Australia’s foreign military engagement”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #674

Fayez KaramBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Lebanese ex-general gets prison sentence for spying for Israel. Last Tuesday’s sentence of former Brigadeer General Fayez Karam (pictured) means he will spend six more months in jail. He has been in prison since mid-2009, said the officials on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Karam, who in the late 1980s led Lebanon’s counterespionage unit, ran for a parliament seat in 2009 as a senior member of the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian leader and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun.
►►US may share intelligence with Nigeria. Nigeria and the United States plan to “explore the development of intelligence fusion capability”. This statement was contained in a joint communiqué issued at the end of a two day inauguration of a regional security cooperation working group held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, Nigeria. The two countries will be collaborating “on training, logistics intelligence sharing, modernization of the security services and other requirements”.
►►Afghan jailed for 16 years for spying for Iran. An Afghan man, named only as Mahmmood, has been jailed for 16 years for spying for neighboring Iran. He was allegedly found in possession of photographs of foreign and Afghan military installations in western Herat province, and had Iranian intelligence officials’ phone numbers in his notebook.

Analysis: Ex-CIA WMD director warns of ‘morphed’ Islamist groups

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In recent months, the heads of the United States Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have opined that the United States may be close to “strategically defeating al-Qaeda”. These were the words used by former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta in July, to describe the current state of Washington’s ‘war on terrorism’. Shortly afterwards, General David Petraeus, who replaced Panetta at the helm of the CIA, echoed his predecessor, arguing that the situation following the death of Osama bin Laden “hold[s] the prospect of a strategic defeat […], a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaeda”. But do such optimistic projections correspond to reality on the ground? In a new column for Homeland Security Today, former CIA operations officer Charles S. Faddis, who retired from the Agency in 2008 as the chief of its weapons of mass destruction counterterrorism unit, agrees that al-Qaeda has been “severely battered” in the ten years since 9/11. But he warns that, while America insists of engaging in “large-scale conventional military operations” in Afghanistan, and essentially “a strategic bombing campaign” in Pakistan, a new generation of terrorist groups appears to have “shifted, morphed and evolved”. In light of this reality, the recent comments by Panetta and Petreaus may suggest “the possibility of a loss of focus” in American counterterrorist operations, says Faddis. The former CIA covert operations officer, who has written several books since his retirement, goes on to discuss the rapid rise of several ethnic or regional militant Islamist groups, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram. The organization made macabre headlines earlier this month, when it launched a massive suicide attack against a United Nations office complex in the Nigerian city of Abuja, killing and injuring over 100 people. He also mentions the Islamic State of Iraq, a notorious outfit whose most recent strikes display an operational sophistication that often surpasses that of Boko Haram’s. Read more of this post

Even more underreported WikiLeaks revelations

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It appears increasingly likely that Sweden will extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where the WikiLeaks founder will face espionage charges. But the WikiLeaks revelations keep coming, although not all of them receive the worldwide media attention that they deserve. Take for instance the disclosure that at least three senior Australian Labour Party (ALP) politicians have operated as “protected sources” (diplomatic parlance for secret informants), providing regular updates on internal ALP politics to US embassy operatives in Canberra. According to internal US diplomatic cables released on Thursday, ALP politicians Bob McMullan, Michael Danby and Mark Arbib, who currently serves as the Australian federal government’s Minister for Sport, regularly held secret meetings with US embassy officials after 2004.  All three deny accusations that they acted as spies for the US. Another underreported WikiLeaks revelation concerns a 2008 proposal by the Saudi government to create an US- and NATO-backed Arab military force to invade Lebanon, seeking to obliterate Shiite paramilitary group Hezbollah, which controls large sections of the country. Read more of this post

Recording of candid speech by Blackwater CEO leaked

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A recording of a relatively recent candid speech given by Erik Prince, the media-shy owner of Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater), has been obtained by The Nation magazine. The extensive recording was made on January 14, during a private talk given by Prince at the University of Michigan before a sympathetic invitation-only audience consisting of military veterans, ROTC commanders and cadets, as well as business entrepreneurs. In his talk, Prince, who last December admitted having worked as a CIA asset, advocated for the employment of private contractors by the US Pentagon to combat insurgents and “Iranian influence” in countries such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. Writing for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill focuses on Princes views, as he conveyed them in his talk. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0251 (analysis edition)

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