On 23 June, the Islamist militant group Boko Haram released a new video showing some of their recent activities. They did so under their newly adopted name: Wilayat Gharb Afriqiya (Islamic State of West Africa province). In the video, the group showed what appeared to be an attack conducted by a group of fighters on foot and in vehicles, resulting in the death of several Nigerian military personnel, and the capture of weapons, ammunition, and vehicles. The location and specifics of its target are unclear.
The video itself showed notably improved production value compared to video releases prior to 2015. This improvement in quality is associated with the group’s growing relationship with the Islamic State (ISIS). There is substantial debate around the extent of that alliance, and the possible consequences it might bring. What follows is some brief commentary on some stills captured from the video.
Establishing shot: Boko Haram fighters are seen advancing toward a number of structures, apparently already partially overrun.
Still 1: Shows a Boko Haram ‘technical’ (a light, unarmoured vehicle with a heavy machine gun bolted to the back) in action. The vehicle itself appears to have been captured from the Nigerian military. A unit number can be seen on the back: 81 Bn.
Still 2: Shows three Boko Haram technicals firing up the road at an unknown target. Although lightly armoured, these vehicles provide a significant potential firepower advantage for the insurgents against small, isolated Nigerian military units, especially when used aggressively in the fashion shown in the video.
Still 3: A fairly typical example of the infantry tactics and weapon handling displayed through much of the video. Here, a fighter wielding an FN MAG sprays what might be generously called ‘suppressing fire’ while a man serving as a loader points out targets. Although quite a lot of shooting takes place, it is unclear who or what they are shooting at, nor do they seem to have any particular concerns about finding cover from return fire.
Still 4: A Boko Haram fighter fires his FN MAG light machine gun around a corner, without using the sights. Interestingly, you can make out three ‘K’ symbols crudely marked on the weapon’s receiver – their meaning is unclear. Nigerian military markings showing “23 Bn” are also visible on the stock of the weapon, suggesting that, as with many or most of Boko Haram weapons, it was captured from the Nigerian military.
Still 5: Another example of poor weapon handling – a Boko Haram fighter aims his weapon one handed down a wall. In the same sequence another fighter moves into the open space visible on the right to fire an RPG at an unseen target. Despite it being easy to criticise the lack of training displayed by the Boko Haram fighters, later sequences show a number of dead Nigerian military personnel – indicating these tactics were effective to at least some degree. The insurgents have also employed relatively high levels of firepower in other videos as well, with the apparent intention of breaking the resolve of the Nigerian military and security forces they are attacking.
Still 6: After a number of short sequences showing the bodies of dead Nigerian military forces, the video transitions to a sweeping shot of collected spoils of battle. Piles of captured weapons, ammunition, and miscellaneous items are shown in this sequence. Visible in this image are numerous AK variant rifles and magazines at centre, as well as some RPG launchers at bottom right.
Still 7: As the camera pans left, a mortar tube is partially visible in the foreground, along with crates of ammunition, what appear to be stacked landmines, and some spare FN MAG barrels in the bottom left corner. While fuel and ammunition are likely considered a prime prize for Boko Haram, the logistics of conducting a protracted insurgency mean that supplies of items such as spare barrels are also vital.
Still 8: A closer look at those Kalashnikov rifles, belts of machine gun ammunition, RPG warheads, and mortar shells in protective cannisters.
Still 9: As the camera pans right, we get a closer look at several RPG launchers, and an eclectic mix of light machineguns, including at least one FN MAG, a number of RPKs, and what appears to be a somewhat rare M60.
Notes on the spoils of war sequence: This collection of captured arms and ammunition is not in any way a war-winning haul by itself. In fact, the entire video appears to show little more than what might be described as an ‘ordinary’ engagement. What is important to consider is the context. Boko Haram is ostensibly pressed by a renewed offensive by the Nigerian military, and by the combined efforts of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The implied consequence of that two-front fight was that the insurgents were cut off from cross-border resupply, and increasingly confined to shelter, notably in the Sambisa forest.
With that in mind, this video appears to be intended to show that the group is still active (which is already readily apparent from numerous attacks it conducted in June alone), and that it is still finding ways of sustaining itself.