Category Archives: Islamic State in West Africa

Niger: November 2018 Chronology of Violent Incidents Related to Al-Qaeda affiliates Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), ISWAP, and Boko Haram

December 3rd, 2018

By Rida Lyammouri

  • Nigerien security forces conducted late October and early November operations along the Burkina Faso borders near Torodi, Say Province, Tillabéri Region. Minister of interior pointed out to deteriorated security conditions in the area.
  • On 30 November Nigerien government extended state of emergency to additional three communes of Tillabéri Region. These communes include Téra, Say, and Torodi. All communes located on the borders with Burkina Faso and especially close to Est Region where there is notable increase of suspected militants activities.
  • Diffa Region witnessed one major incident by suspected Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Additionally, at least 15 girls were taken while the outcome of more than 30 girls taken in the same area over a a year ago remains unknown.


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Mali – Sahel: May 2018 Violent incidents by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Ansaroul Islam, and other security incidents

By Rida Lyammouri,

June 14, 2018

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Mali – Sahel: August 2017 – April 2018 Chronology of Violent Incidents by Al-Qaeda Affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Ansaroul Islam, and Armed Banditry and Inter-Community Violence


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Nigeria: Comprehensive summary of Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi interview in English

By Rida Lyammouri,

August 8th, 2016

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Key points of the interview based on Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi (Habeeb Bin Muhamed Bin Youssef al-Barnawi) comments:

  • Motivation behind pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) was seeing strength fighting as one and in unity.
  • The real name of the group was never Boko Haram, it’s a nickname given by western media to discredit the group. The real name was given after the founder, Sheikh Youssef al-Barnawi was killed and Shekau became head of the group. The original name is Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad.
  • The group did send its fighters to the Sahara for military training, but al-Barnawi did not specify where and the group that provided the training.
  • Western forces are providing support to coalition forces fighting ISWAP/Boko Haram but have no boots on the ground.
  • Al-Barnawi said the group does not approve or authorize attacks on mosques and markets killing Muslims. Said members for their own personal interests carry these attacks.
  • Al-Barnawi said operations against ISWAP are run from joint operation room in Niger, and when they decide to attack, French and US send surveillance drones from their bases in Niger to locate us. Then joint African forces will carry an on ground assault backed by heavy air support.
  • Narrative of al-Barnawi focuses on accusing Western countries and Christians of having hidden agendas behind their humanitarian work and helping refugees.
  • Al-Barnawi claims increased number of fighters among ISWAP is due to the victories achieved by IS elsewhere. Injustice applied by local government (s) also claimed to be another reason.

Comprehensive Summary of the Interview

Note: This is not a word-by-word translation but rather a comprehensive summary of all talking points while leaving unnecessary comments out. Also this does not represent my views.

For good analysis about what this means please read Ryan Cummings commentary here.

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Battle of Niger: Summary and takeaways from Boko Haram/ISWAP video

By Rida Lyammouri

July 6th, 2016

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On July 5th, 2016, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) or better known as Boko Haram, released a 14mn video titled: the Battle of Bosso. Exactly a month ago on June 3th ISWAP militants conducted one of the deadliest attacks on Nigerien forces military base of Bosso, Niger. Video mainly intends to reinforce ISWAP propaganda that regional forces are unable to stop the group from conducting attacks on hard targets and to demonstrate capability of defeating them. Important to note that an initial short video was released June 7th, three days after Bosso attack. However, July 5th video is 12 times longer, has more contents, and much better quality. The video included passages of speeches from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from 2004 to 2006, was killed in June 2006. Continue reading

Updated: New Boko Haram leader, Bana Blachera with new agenda?

By Rida Lyammouri

June 9th, 2016

Note: Information is taken mostly from an article published by Le Monde, French newspaper. I summarized the article her for non-French speaking observers and for more exposure to assist audience interested in the issue have clear image of what’s going on.

There are no ways of verifying these important information provided by this article, and most of observers been following conflict for years agreed that Boko Haram expansion claim to CAR or Uganda is baseless and all remain skeptical. This skepticism is also due to previous similar claims with no concrete evidence. Furthermore the author does not provide a substantiate any of his claims, one observer very familiar with the issue. Something we should keep an eye on is the new alleged leader, Bana Blachera.

The fall of Bosso briefly in the hands of Boko Haram doesn’t indicate the group is looking to occupy and govern a territory. According to the article this is more of new strategy within the group under new leadership, and attempt to have access to more weapons, fuel, vehicles, and foodstuff.

Boko Haram or the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried series of attacks on Niger. The debate heated again between officials and observers about the seriousness of links between Boko Haram and the so called Islamic State. One answer to these recent attacks could be new leadership among the group trying to establish its trademark. Reportedly, Boko Haram has a new leader. New leader is identified as Bana Blachera, a Cameroonian citizen who joined the group since early days of existence under Mohamed Yusuf in 2002. Bana Blachera reportedly does not have the same religious/ideology drive like Mohamed Yusuf, the charismatic founder of Boko Haram. Unlike Abubakar Shekau, he doesn’t like making media appearances and videos.

Blachera is more of a man who likes to be on the field and carry operations rather than preaching. He made his name within the group by excelling at being the man in charge of logistics. He was in charge of facilitating movement of supplies such as weapons and fuel. Supposedly Blachera seized the opportunity of its leader, Shekau, weakened by an illness to make name for himself. Blachera have made the difference and given to supposedly weakened and defeated group the firepower needed to carry deadly attack on Nigerien Army in Bosso June 3rd. This attack and others on surrounding villages brought back the group to the map for anyone thinking otherwise.

Video released by ISWAP showed important number of well armed fighters of Boko Haram able to defeat a state Army, and forcing them to retreat. With new agenda and intention to expand to other African countries, notably Uganda and Central Africa, Blachera was of key leaders invested in pledging allegiance to the so called Islamic State in 2015. The article stated that the group relies on weapons smuggled from Sudan and Libya.

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Boko Haram / ISWPA fighters in Bosso attack June 3rd. Video released by ISWAP

For the new leadership of Boko Haram, Central African Republic, where the central government has been weakened by war between Anti-Balaka and Seleka, represents an ideal target for recruitment to serve as fallback base. Boko Haram seem also to take advantage of the slow process of collaboration between regional forces to expand into new territories.

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Boko Haram / ISWAP vehicle with mounted machine gun during Bosso attack June 3rd.


Arrest of Ansaru Leader Barnawi Raises Questions About the Group’s Status

By Omar. S.Mahmood 

April 27th, 2016

On April 1st, Nigerian security forces in the central state of Kogi arrested Khalid al-Barnawi, a prominent jihadist figure and presumed leader of the Boko Haram offshoot Ansaru. Despite uncertainty regarding his recent status, Barnawi’s detention is one of the more substantial in the course of Nigeria’s battle against Islamic militancy, and has already began to bear fruit with the arrest of his deputy twelve days later. At the same time, the event also raises questions regarding Ansaru activities in the three years since its last major attack, and its status vis-à-vis Boko Haram.

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Khalid al-Barnawi

Barnawi is a pseudonym for Usman Umar Abubakar, a mid-40s militant from Borno state who served as a founding member of Boko Haram. Barnawi reportedly trained with Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria, maintaining “closelinks with Mokhtar Belmokhtar and the organization thereafter. Following his return to Nigeria, Barnawi planned kidnapping operations against foreign nationals, and was allegedly involved in the 2011 bombing at the UN headquarters in Abuja, among other violence. Barnawi was linked to Ansaru’s emergence in January 2012, and following the March 2012 death of founder Adam Kambar, who had also trained Algeria, Barnawi emerged as the sect’s new leader.

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Summary of 31 March 2016 Boko Haram Video

By Rida Lyammouri

April 1, 2016

Boko Haram, the so-called Islamic State branch in west Africa, released a new video on 31 March 2016. This video came after Abubakar Shekau released a video where he appeared weak and defeated. In last week video, unlike previous ones, Shekau was not as animated as he used to. While Nigerian and regional forces repeatedly claimed the group have collapsed and been defeated, Boko Haram spokesman in the video stated that the group remains intact in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and on the Nigerien borders. This despite all the meetings and collaboration between different countries to defeat Junoud al-Khilafa. Spokesman went to deny everything that it was said on the media, and fellow Muslims should not believe what was reported. Then confirmed that Boko Haram remains under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau. He concluded by providing support to IS supreme leader calling him Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Qurchi.

Boko Haram spokesman did not have the same charismatic and animated delivery as Shekau. He was not as confident and struggled constructing sentences throughout the video. Of course the video has been taken down but I have a copy available upon request. Important things said in the video are added above but I am adding few screenshots of the video. Also including an image where a kid was hiding behind the tree before running away when last vehicle with rocket launcher drove by.

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You can clearly see a kid on top left corner behind the tree running away. 

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