A Boko Haram splinter group loyal to the Islamic State may be on the verge of launching a large-scale attack in northeast Nigeria, says Ahmad Salkida.
Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP) has stepped up its attack on Nigerian military locations in the northeast in recent weeks, and Salkida, a journalist with the knowledge of Boko Haram insurgency and Lake Chad crisis, said the group may be planning something dastardly as Nigeria prepares for general elections.
"The insurgents are busy piling up arms by overrunning one military base, after another, for something "big" and what could that be," he tweeted on Saturday.
His warning came after the insurgents attacked a Nigerian troop’s location in Guzamala, Borno State. Eight persons were feared dead in the attack.
While foreign media reported that the insurgents took over the town, Salkida said the fighters’ main aim was the military facility in the town.
"It wasn't a takeover, apparently. The target was the military facility," he said.
Nigerian Army spokesman Texas Chukwu confirmed the Saturday attack.
"The encounter took place when the insurgents attacked the community, set some buildings ablaze and quickly withdrew from the community," he said in a statement.
"However, no human casualty was recorded in the encounter. The troops have regrouped and normalcy has been restored. The troops have also been reinforced with additional troops to dominate the general area."
The rising regularity of Boko Haram attacks suggests that Salkida's warning should be taken seriously.
"When attention was on #ISWAP attack on Guzamala yesterday, the group staged another daring attack on a military facility in Baga, Kukawa, on the shores of the #LakeChad," Salkida said in another tweet on Sunday.
Last week, AFP reported that a soldier and civilian were killed and 21 travellers kidnapped in an ambush near Gwoza town in Borno State. That attack was believed to have been carried out by the Abubakar Shekau group.
A military formation in Zari, Borno State suffered a heavy casualty when it was attacked by ISWAP on September 30. About 30 troops were believed to have been killed. That number was later revised to 48.
"The casualty toll now stands at 48 with the recovery of 17 more bodies of soldiers in surrounding bushes in Zari by search and rescue teams," a military source who wanted to be anonymous told AFP.
"Search operations are still ongoing and more bodies are likely to be recovered."
Mairari village, also in Borno State, was attacked on August 18, with six people killed in the village located about 10 kilometres from the garrison in Monguno.
Four farmers were killed in Ali Goshe village two days earlier.
"I'm concerned with the implications of these growing attacks," Salkida said.
Nigerian authorities, however, have touted the success of the military campaign against the insurgents. On many occasions, the government have claimed to have defeated them.
But President Muhammadu Buhari in May said they have been "degraded" instead of “defeated” in what seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement of the difficulty of the task of curtailing the growth of the insurgents.
"The capacity of the insurgents has been degraded, leading to the re-establishment of authority of government and the release of captives including, happily, 106 Chibok and 104 Dapchi girls, and over 16,000 other persons held by the Boko Haram,” Buhari said in a Democracy Day speech on May 29, 2018.
Recent attacks carried out by the two factions of Boko Haram indicate that the claim of them being defeated or degraded may have come too soon.