Friday, 16 October 2015

Boko Haram’s Attacks And the Role Of intelligence

THIS week, Boko Haram continued its campaign against security forces in the North East. Chad experienced two attacks, the first being an incident in which three IEDs were detonated. One was at a fish market and the other two at a refugee camp resulting in the death of no fewer than 37 persons.
The second Boko Haram attack in Chad was a frontal one on Chadian soldiers. The insurgents attacked them at their positions about 4.30 a.m. Seventeen Boko Haram fighters were killed. The nation lost a few soldiers and 13 were wounded.

In Niger, three suicide bombers died when their IEDs prematurely detonated en-route to their intended targets. The Boko Haram offensive took place in neighboring Niger and Chad despite the recent deployment of the regional Multinational Joint Task Force. The insurgent group, not wanting to go down without a fight, is doing all it can to counter the military campaign.

These regional attacks re-emphasise the imperative of actively tackling the issue of porous borders to curb ease of movements and to prevent transfer of weapons and knowledge within the region. Several intelligence collection technologies which can track border movements exist. Therefore, the regional governments need to consider a collaborative effort to employ them. These tools will help the security professionals to identify obscured border crossing routes the insurgents use.

In Yobe State, three IEDs detonated, killing 15 civilians, one at a settlement behind a housing estate. The second one detonated at a mosque in a government workers’ housing estate called Buhari Housing Estate and the third at a shopping center within the same estate.

Also in Yobe, a military base was attacked overnight by a large group of insurgents which the Army said resulted in the death of 100 terrorists! Two lessons arise from this. The first is that the security personnel appear to be reactive, evident in their being caught off guard. The second is these attacks could also be indicative of major intelligence collection paucity.

The Army chief visited the Yobe military camp and expressed his displeasure that despite all the advanced military weapons and equipment available at the base, to ward off the insurgents, his men did not use them proactively, by going after the insurgents, while at the same time protect themselves and the surrounding communities. In other words, the troops did not take an offensive strategy which is the central part of counter-terrorism operations. The terrorists must be found out and their attack plans foiled before they are able to strike. Once an attack occurs, it is usually seen as a counter-terrorism failure.

After the Abuja bombing which took place earlier this month, security and surveillance was increased across the capital territory. Meetings of security experts were conveyed, questions about the lack of a functioning CCTV around the state were asked. However, all these things comprise reactive actions. Counter terrorism strategies require that the security apparatus of the nation are proactive in identifying possible attacks before they occur. This is where running efficient and effective intelligence organisations comes in.

Intelligence lapse

A good intelligence collection apparatus should have advance indications and warnings about an imminent attack. If a group of 100 insurgents are congregating, planning and mobilising for an attack, active and effective intelligence analysts should be able to get wind of the activity, be it visually through 24hour aerial surveillance, or via interception of insurgent communications or perhaps through network of informants on the ground. Looking at it from this perspective, it is easy to see why the Army chief was displeased about the lack of active intelligence gathering which could have given the troops in Yobe forewarning and saved lives.

Some members of the opposing political party called for an overhaul of the country’s security and intelligence agencies. In reality, when a terrorist attack occurs, intelligence agencies are usually blamed for the blunder. For example, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center was seen as a U.S. intelligence failure. Intelligence personnel denied this accusation. However, further investigation into the matter revealed that there were some short-comings within the intelligence community. One of these weak points was lack of information sharing. For that reason, the U.S. government and intelligence leadership put measures in place that helped increase information sharing to forestall a reoccurrence on its soil.

Intelligence agencies prevent terrorist attacks on a daily basis. Many of these foiled attacks go unreported. However, when one attack occurs, the intelligence community is blamed for missing it. Similarly, when multiple attacks keep occurring, it is a sign that some form of an extensive overhaul does need to occur. Naturally, intelligence personnel will differ, however, the answers are in the results.

Identifying the insurgent networks

Despite these infirmities, the Army reported the capture of several key Boko Haram individuals including their financier and stimulant dealer. He was arrested in Bama with N1million cash and some other items. Another suspected Boko Haram sponsor, who has been parading himself as a military brigadier general, was also apprehended. More Boko Haram members were arrested based on the confessions of those apprehended.

The military released the names of the individuals arrested and security organizations can use these names to carry out social network analysis on the insurgents which will help identify the decentralised cells and the connections of the various insurgent groups. An example of the effective use of social network analysis was in the case of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Intelligence organisations through interrogation received the name of an Al-Qaida operative called Al-Kuwaiti. Through social network analysis and communication interception, Al-Kuwaiti was identified as a courier who lived with his brother and another high valued target (Osama) in Pakistan.

The point of all this is that combating insurgency and terrorism requires effective and efficient intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination, and ground troops should be acting based on intelligence received. Dealing with our Boko Haram insurgency will require the use of intelligence tools, techniques and software as a part of the nation’s counter terrorism and counter insurgency strategies.

Written By: Tanwa Ahiru 

Ashiru is the founder of Bulwark Intelligence and is a U.S. Air Force veteran with over 12 years in All-Source Intelligence and counter improvised explosive device (CIED) Analysis. She has been involved in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in support of Multi-National Forces in Southwest Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

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