Military reacts as terrorists from Sahel region cross into Nigeria

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A new report released on Wednesday by a Dutch think tank, the Clingendael Institute, indicated that there was ample evidence that Islamist terrorists from the Sahel region had crossed into Nigeria through the Benin Republic border.

The jihad fighters were said to have settled in Kebbi State and the Kainji National Park, turning the facility into their base.

Reacting to the report, the director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, said the military was not slowing down in its campaign against terrorism and violent extremism.

Buba noted that the goal of the military operations across the country was to destroy the terrorists wherever they were.

“The military is fighting the terrorists wherever they exist across the country. Indeed, troops of Operation Whirl Punch are conducting operations in terrorist enclaves in North Central which includes Kainji Lake Park,” he said.

“Additionally, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji are equally doing the same to terrorists in Kebbi State and the west of the country. The objective of our operations is to destroy these terrorists and dismantle their military capabilities so citizens are safe and protected.”

The report said the extremists’ motive for settling in Kainji Lake National Park and Kebbi state was unclear.

They were believed to be affiliated with the various jihadist groups with links to Boko Haram.

The report said, “Violent extremists are present in Kainji Lake National Park just across the border from the Borgou Department.

“Evidence suggests this involves Sahelian extremists (likely Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin). Another group would be Darul Salam – a group linked to Boko Haram, if not fully affiliated – with an open attitude towards bandits.

“There has been a strong increase in the movement of unidentified armed actors along the Borgou border with Niger State and in banditry-related incidents since March 2023.

“The evidence suggests that there is a direct link with those operating in Kainji Lake National Park.’’

It added, “Since March 2023, unidentified armed groups have had a concealed presence in the Forêt de Trois Rivières between southern Alibori and the Borgou Department.’’

The Clingendael Institute said banditry was re-emerging in zones controlled by the JNIM in Benin, noting that the bandits appeared to have Nigerian connections.

The report also warned that the jihadists might threaten the well-developed cross-border trade system between the Nigerian and Beninese border.

“This system generates livelihoods for many people in the area. Livelihoods are at risk. There is a variety of markets and crossings connecting North West Nigeria and Northern Benin. Unidentified armed groups and Darul Salam operate in these hubs,” the report added.

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