SEVERAL Boko Haram terrorists are believed to have moved out of their base in the northeast and relocated to Kaduna where they are training criminal gangs and bandits on how to use firearms.
Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) and the remnants of Boko Haram are believed to have begun training bandits in weapons training and kidnapping. Iswap has been consolidating its grip across the northeast after the reported death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau this year assimilating some of his loyalists and forcing others to surrender.
It now appears that the group is spreading its influence further by moving out of its traditional base and is now working with criminal armed groups in the northwest, who raid and loot villages and conduct mass abductions for ransom. Two military sources said a faction loyal to Shekau based in Borno State had dispatched two commanders and 250 fighters to the Rijana Forest in Kaduna State.
These two commanders are allied with Bakoura Buduma, a Boko Haram chief who remains loyal to Shekau and whose fighters are resisting Iswap consolidation, according to security sources. Both sources said Boko Haram militants were also training the gangs, known locally as bandits, in the use of anti-aircraft guns and explosives and other weapons.
Military analysts say there have been growing signs jihadists and bandit gangs are developing deeper ties where both stand to gain. Under the arrangement they appear to have worked out, the jihadists supply the arms and weaponry and in return profit from the proceeds of criminal activity.
Northwest Nigeria has long been plagued by the bandit groups, but this year, attacks and kidnappings have surged as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic feeds criminality. Criminal gangs have targeted schools in a series of high-profile mass abductions of students and pupils for ransom.
Attacks have also become more brazen, as last month, armed criminals attacked the country’s elite Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna and kidnapped one officer. In June, criminal gangs shot down an air force jet conducting surveillance operations above their camps.