Sunday, September 14, 2014

14TH September 2014 Nigeria SITREP

by Fulan Nasrallah

First Battle Of Konduga 

It took me almost 48 hours to obtain very reliable information of how events played out on the ground in Konduga Town, Konduga LGA, Borno State of North East Nigeria, on 12th September, when insurgent fighters in their hundreds launched a two-pronged assault targeting Kawuri Village and Konduga Town about 40km from Maiduguri to the south and east.

Utilizing night cover around 3:45AM scores of fighters drawn from combined Yusufiyya forces (all four groups) struck at Kawuri Village, engaging CJTF forces and an estimated company-sized force of soldiers for twenty minutes.

Fifteen minutes after the Kawuri assault began, a main force of some 450 fighters (confirmed) in trucks and Toyota picukups attacked Konduga from the direction of Bama.

Meanwhile company-sized elements drawn from 143 Infantry Battalion (newly trained by US California National Guard Special Operations personel drawn from 19th Special Forces Group) and 176 Special Forces Battalion (detached Brigade Of Guards), and supporting tube field artillery units drawn from a yet unspecified artillery unit within 1 Division, had developed proper defensive and firing zones into which the insurgents were channeled.

At 09:00AM, 150 insurgent reinforcement fighters arrived on scene accompanied by several truck mounted 60mm and 81mm mortar pieces providing the insurgents with their first artillery cover of the engagement (the insurgents are confirmed to have mostly utilized truck mounted 12.5mm machine guns along with man portable Dashoka and RPG teams to provide heavy weapons support throughout the engagement).

By some minutes past 12PM, insurgent forces broke off the assault retreating with scores of wounded why living some 80 something bodies (confirmed) on the field. A military source on the scene confirmed that over 35 soldiers were killed and dozens more injured in various degrees.

Insurgent forces abandoned damaged vehicles and the Army captured several mortar pieces. Army patrol units followed the retreating insurgents, harassing them and conducting recon-by-fire sweeps until 5km outside Konduga they ran into fresh insurgent troops (estimated at a 100 or so) and a firefight broke out lasting some 18 minutes while the the retreating insurgents retreated, then the obvious rearguard (the new arrivals) and the Army recon units broke off contact, each side returning to its territory.


Notable in this was the ‘complete lack of air cover’. Despite frantic radio appeals by on the ground commanders for air support, ‘not one jet showed up’ over the battlefield.

Firstly for the Nigerian Army this was an important battle and victory especially for its propaganda value. With elements of arguably the two best-trained formations in the entire Nigerian Army deployed to engage the insurgents at Konduga, based on what was definitely credible enough intelligence, it is obvious the Nigerian Government was intent on securing a victory (the commanders for morale, the politicians for political points). But on closer examination, this battle and victory for the Nigerian Army was not strategically worth it, and here:

1) This was not an attempt to seize Konduga as is being portrayed in the media nor was the intention to march on Maiduguri. This was a probing attack to test the defensive positions around Maiduguri. 600 men (total number of insurgent fighters said to have taken part at the Battle of Konduga) is definitely not enough to invest and seize Konduga not to talk of Maiduguri, and the insurgents are definitely not stupid (stupid people don’t outsmart an army like Nigeria’s and overrun towns and a city in three whole states). In seizing Gulak, Madagali, Bazza, and Michika, places with considerably less military presence than Konduga, they employed nothing less than 1,000 fighters per each operation. For Konduga, they needed at minimum, 1,800 fighters and definitely much more artillery and heavy weapons support than was used at the last battle of Konduga.

2) The insurgents do not lack artillery (mortars, recoiless rifles, Triple-A guns), but surprisingly they did not deploy much artillery which they would have did (especially the Tripple-A guns), if they intended to capture Konduga.

I expect more of such probes to take place along the approaches to Maiduguri. If the insurgents aim to seize Maiduguri, this might be a prelude to a full-scale assault on Konduga, in which case building on lessons learnt from it, the knowledge gained of the kind of forces they may likely meet in a second battle of Konduga will definitely be put to use by the insurgent battle-planners.

Did this battle change anything? Absolutely did not. Just some kilometers outside Konduga insurgent forces maintain their very visible presence. There was no withdrawal from positions which they occupy.

The Army did not press the advantage it should have gained had its opponents been in flight from the battlefield, rather it did not because it could not, and the recon-by-fire teams it sent out to harass the retreating insurgents were forced back under fire from rebel rearguard forces.

On Bama And Other Towns

Ineffectual aerial raids (note my choice of words, raids, not bombardments) continue on almost daily basis targeting already bombed-out locations apparently still marked as ‘suspected terrorist positions’ e.g the mosques and areas the palaces of traditional rulers in insurgent-occupied towns.

Some civilian casualties are said to have been killed by exploding aerial ordnance in Bama yesterday and today, although this cannot be confirmed.

Do these raids serve any meaningful strategic purpose? I have been asked this question by many followers of this blog via email. The answer depends on if these raids were designed to degrade insurgent capabilities or just to annoy the insurgents and piss them the flaming hell off.

If the aim was the first, the aircraft are too few and too vulnerable to enemy Triple-A guns to do any serious damage. Add the fact that very few insurgents are in the towns as most are dispersed in the surrounding hills and bushes.

However if the aim was to annoy the insurgents like a stingless male anopheles mosquito buzzing in the air, then the aim can certainly be described as over achieved as not only the insurgents but also the locals left in the areas have been pissed off by the air raids that seem to do nothing but destroy the mosques.

Shot Down Jet?

On Saturday 13th September I was made aware that the previous day, a single Alpha Jet was scampered to provide air support to troops battling insurgents at Konduga, my initial source who is a ranking AirForce officer said the plane is suspected to have been shot over Bama-Gwoza axis or Northern Adamawa State. An Insurgent source whom I sent a feeler to claims that a Triple-A gun in Limankara belonging to Harakatul-Muhajiriin claimed to have engaged a Nigerian AirForce plane between 11:00AM and 11:09AM scoring hits . Today the second day after the Alpha Jet left base and did not return, the Director of Defence Information, Major-Gen Chris Olukolade announced via email to journalists that an Alpha Jet with two pilots is ‘missing’ somewhere over Adamawa, leaving base by 10:45AM on a mission and expected back by 12pm, putting it in the air at the time my source claimed a plane was engaged by anti-aircraft fire.