A French News Agency, AFP quoting military sources has said that a large number of Boko Haram terrorists have moved out of their base in the North-East to join forces with criminal gangs in the North-West, where they are engaged in weapons training.
Boko Haram’s Islamic State-allied rivals have been consolidating their grip on the North-East after the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, this year in a major shift in Nigeria’s 12-year insurgency battle.
Islamic State West Africa Province has been moving into Boko Haram’s territory, fighting Shekau loyalists, assimilating some, or forcing others to surrender to the armed forces, security sources said.
Details of the movement of Boko Haram fighters could be the latest sign of cooperation between jihadists and criminal armed groups in the North-West, 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 forests in northwestern Kaduna State.
Both 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.
“They are the masterminds behind some of the abductions in the North-West,” one of the military sources said.
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.
Analysts said there had been growing signs that jihadists and bandit gangs were developing deeper ties where both stood to gain. Jihadists supply arms while profiting from criminal activity.
North-West Nigeria has long been plagued by bandit groups, but this year, attacks and kidnappings have surged.
The revelation comes two weeks after the Department of State Services (DSS) asked security agencies in Kaduna to brace themselves for likely attacks.
It noted that leaders and foot soldiers of the Boko Haram terrorist sect have relocated to a forest in Southern Kaduna from Sambisa Forest.