The al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, Jamaat al Ansar al Muslimeen fi Bilad al Sudan, better known as Ansaru; has officially announced its return to Nigeria after claiming its first operation in the most populous black nation since 2013.
On Tuesday, at least six Nigerian soldiers were killed after being ambushed by gunmen dressed in military uniforms. The ambush occurred along the Kaduna-Zaira highway. The soldiers were part of the convoy of the Emir of Potiskum in Yobe State, who was believed to be the main target. Although military officials initially reported that six soldiers were killed by ‘gunmen in military uniforms’; other sources have revealed that the death toll was at least 30 soldiers. Also, several soldiers have been reported missing or kidnapped.
Coincidentally, Ansaru claims to have killed 22 Nigerian troops in an attack, including destroying several vehicles. However, it made no mention of any kidnapped soldiers or civilians. Further, the group did not mention the Emir of Potiskum as being the target.
The claim was made via al Qaeda’s Al Hijrah Media
Ansaru faces a fierce turf war with Boko Harm, ISWAP in Nigeria
The medium routinely publishes claims and translations from various groups within al Qaeda’s vast global network. Prior to the statement from Al Hijrah; several Ansaru and al Qaeda-linked social media channels also claimed the ambush on the convoy was perpetrated by Ansaru.
Meanwhile, the development comes after Ansaru announced its return in October by releasing a new photo. Equally important, the photo shows some of its fighters inside Nigeria. Although the picture did not say much, it was meant to demonstrate Ansaru’s continued existence and presence inside Nigeria.
After Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015; Ansaru has widely been regarded as al Qaeda’s franchise in Nigeria. However, following fierce competition with Boko Haram, and later the Islamic State West Africa; as well as the arrest of Barnawi in 2016; Ansaru was severely weakened and largely relegated to a state of dormancy.
The attack claim is meant to demonstrate that Ansaru has finally become operational after a long hiatus of dormancy. Nevertheless, it faces a fierce battle for turf with Boko Haram and ISWAP in Nigeria.