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The lingering war against insurgency


Nigerian soldiers inspect a burnt vehicle. PHOTO: AFP

Operation-Entebbe is till date the most courageous military-rescue-action taken by a nation to liberate its citizens held hostage thousands of miles away. The military, acting on intelligence report provided by its state intelligence agency that the hostages were held up at an unused terminal building at Entebbe airport in Uganda, recognised that their only chance to rescue the 110 hostages in Uganda (the terrorists’ safe-haven) without submitting to blackmail by the Palestinian-terrorists group was for a strike force to employ the surprise-military-strategy. They planned to storm Uganda for the rescue operation while negotiating a release of hostages. Negotiations or giving in to hijacker’s demand, to them, would open the door to more of such incidents. A strike force (trained in air assault operations) was assembled at a military base to begin planning the impossible: a raid on Entebbe, two thousand miles away. The planning/training was such that a special squad numbering about 100 commandos to carry out the assault-and-rescue action would be in four Hercules C-130 military transport planes. Two civil aviation Boeing 707 aircraft, equipped with medical gadgets/equipment was to accompany the military planes, to take care of the sick and casualties. The assault was planned for execution within seven days given by the terrorist as deadline failing which the 110 hostages would all be killed!

Two days to the deadline, the six aircraft took-off for the 2,300-mile, eight-hour flight to Uganda from Tel Aviv. They flew deceptively as if heading towards South Africa but later diverted and flew at low altitude and reduced speed as the night took over. This act was to prevent radar detection as they headed towards Entebbe where the hostages were held. At the end of the 53-minute operation, the following fatality was recorded; the unit leader of the Special Assault Force, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu (older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, current Prime Minister of Israel), five hostages caught in the crossfire between hijackers and the strike-force, all eight terrorists, and dozens of Ugandan soldiers died. The absconding commandos blew up the 11 parked Ugandan MIG jets (Russian-built fighter jets) that would have scrambled to intercept the six escaping rescue planes. At the end of the operation about 105 hostages were released and flown back home. The rescue operation was a huge success because the plan was not sabotaged!


The significance of intelligence has been recognised for centuries for the security of every nation. Intelligence gathering started worldwide by seeking information about military capabilities and plans of potential enemies. Although desire and need for intelligence has been constant for centuries, the information available, technology of communication, means of collection, and speed and accuracy of turning raw information into finished intelligence for decision makers have all changed with time. Some countries devote more resources to security than others; this however does not make such countries immune to attacks, but makes it extremely hard for those who would seek to perpetrate mayhems. The United States, for instance, commits more resources to security than any other nation in the world, but was humbled by the Osama Bin Laden-led Al-Qaeda attacks.

Back home in Nigeria, the Maitatsine sect came up with audacious teachings in the 80s. They unleashed maximum destruction in a bid to establish their own version of how a society should operate; this was our nation’s first insurgency ‘baptism-of-fire’. The fight against Maitatsine religious insurgency was easier to quell as compared to the Boko Haram, largely because there was no record of saboteurs and corruption was not as high as we now have. The Maitatsine group attacked other religious figures and overwhelmed the state command of the Nigerian Police, but was no match for the battle-ready Nigerian Army contingent. The sect lost grounds they previously held and was finally brought to its knees. Surviving members fled Kano to other Northern States.

Working against one’s country at warfare times is rare but seems to be the stock-in-trade of some people in Nigeria, probably for monetary gains. The Boko Haram sect believed to be an offshoot of Maitatsine, boasts of an arsenal of weapons that is as deadly if not more deadly than that of the Nigerian armed forces. The military men who are expected to be at the top of the game are having challenges which include saboteurs within and outside the force, corruption and diversion of funds meant for arms. The recent happenings in this long-drawn-out war against Boko-Haram indicate that some unpatriotic individuals are possibly giving advance information of troop position to sect members. A good example is the death of Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Abu-Ali – a gallant and efficient officer who had accelerated promotion ahead of his colleagues, alongside five soldiers during battle with the Boko Haram terrorist. Earlier that day, two officers and fifty order-ranks were redeployed from the front, only for Boko Haram forces to attack some hours later possibly indicating the sect was aware of troop reduction in number. Many lives including civilians, children and members of the armed forces have thus far been lost.

The government should do more in funding our security agencies. Today’s technology necessitates that our nation embraces new technologies such as Integrated Real-time Security Intelligence (RTSI), a device which detects threat and enables pro-active actions to be taken before damage is done, improve Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) facilities, acquiring modern military hardware and requisite trainings and analytical skills be imparted to our military personnel. Our border security should be tightened to restrict arms proliferation. Government should empower Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to vigorously combat money laundering (as terrorists need funds to operate).

The prolonged war against insurgency is largely due to saboteurs’ involvement the state should come up with tougher penalty laws for both sect members apprehended and those aiding-and-abetting the crime as this will serve as a deterrent to others.

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