Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) could be close to using delivery drones for attacks in the Lake Chad Basin. The weaponization and adaptation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is a new trend in the group’s operational strategy and could exacerbate the conflict.
Research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) shows that ISWAP is already testing delivery drones to carry improvised explosive devices. This includes assessing the weight they can carry, how far they can reach and how long they stay in the air. The threat goes beyond military objectives and can affect the delivery of humanitarian services.
Constantly operations The clashes between the Nigerian military and the Jama’atu Ahlis-Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (JAS) with Boko Haram have hit hard. losses It significantly reduced the operating space of ISWAP. Successful intelligence-led strikes arresting ISWAP members outside the Northeast are preventing the group from expanding. These setbacks are forcing ISWAP to adjust its strategy, as it has done before.
Until now, ISWAP has limited the use of drones to propaganda, surveillance and communication. ISS research, including an analysis of publicly available propaganda materials and interviews with ex-combatants and associates, reveals the elaborate use of communication technologies (see Chart 1). These include satellite and Android phones, drones, social networks (Telegram and WhatsApp), high-speed printers, laptops, high-definition digital cameras, Wi-Fi, microphones, walkie-talkies, and data compression and archiving software.
All these tools are used by the media group headed by Mohammed Yusuf, the son of the late founder of Boko Haram, Abba Yusuf (Abu Rumaisa). The main function of the group is to portray ISWAP as a successful jihadist group. Such propaganda will encourage recruitment and present a positive image that cements its position as a major affiliate of the Islamic State. globally. The media department also manages relations with other violent extremist groups, including the Islamic State.
Ex-members of ISWAP, including those from the media unit, told ISS how the department works. Employees are recruited from within the group and are taught the basics of operating the equipment, especially the cameras. They accompany the fighters and wait from afar to be invited to take photos and videos, usually when things go ISWAP’s way.
Raw images and footage are sent to the Islamic State, which produces propaganda material. The group shares content with ISWAP’s media team, which distributes Telegram to private and members-only accounts, Nashir News Agency (see Figure 2).
ISWAP relies on high-speed satellite internet to communicate with Islamic State and other groups. Sources told ISS that ISWAP used Thuraya Wi-Fi and spent about $6,000 on data every month. They said Lagos was the main source of supply, but ISWAP found a problem with the supply, forcing them to switch to Chad. Although there are Thuraya satellite phones and internet services illegal In Chad, they are used secretly.
A certain Thuraya model stands out as a possible device used by ISWAP. It is available in Nigeria but mainly in Lagos. It is Thuraya XT-Hotspot to market As the world’s fastest satellite Wi-Fi for communication needs beyond GSM coverage… for a fast and secure Internet connection in the most remote locations.
Sources say ISWAP has offered vehicles equipped with internet services to facilitate communication and data sharing anywhere. The media team uses one of these vehicles when accompanying fighters, allowing them to share battlefield footage instantly. This explains how ISWAP can quickly release information, including images and videos, sometimes within hours of attacks.
ISWAP’s public communications also suggest that it could easily share data with the Islamic State using data compression and archiving software. In addition to speed and encryption, the software reduces bandwidth costs.
There is no single way for ISWAP to address the issue of technology use. The solution lies in several measures working together.
ISS research ISWAP has detailed how the trade routes of the Lake Chad Basin were exploited for vital supplies. The group’s remote location should be an advantage for security forces that could disrupt its supply lines. Checkpoint quests have been successful and can be used again. Those bringing equipment and accessories must explain their destination, which must be verified by security agents. Cooperation between the security forces of the four affected Lake Chad basin countries can help.
The ISS report also showed how civilian and military collaborators helped ISWAP get supplies. Leaders of the region’s security forces must hold their personnel to the highest standards and employ an independent ombudsman to prevent corruption. To prevent civilians from collaborating with terrorist groups, authorities should work with communities and unions to identify and disrupt networks that support ISWAP. The criminal justice system can also play a deterrent role.
A future concern is the involvement of violent extremist groups like ISWAP in cybercrimes. Given Nigeria’s immense and growing financial capabilities technology industry, the authorities should prepare for it. Investing in technology and partnering with technology companies to ensure that their products, platforms or services do not fall into the hands of ISWAP is a start.
Going after ISWAP’s money is essential. The group must be withdrawn from its current location using joint military operations. This would cut off ISWAP’s access to its main revenue base. When using these tactics, great care must be taken not to harm civilians, destroy their livelihoods or cause human rights violations.
Restricting ISWAP’s access to technology will prevent the use of technology to plan and execute attacks, spread propaganda, and recruit. This will reduce the damage the group inflicts on civilians and aid workers in the Lake Chad Basin.
Malik Samuel, Researcher, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) West Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad Basin Regional Office
The research for this article was funded by the Government of the Netherlands.
(This article was first published by ISS Today, syndicate partner Premium Times. We have their permission to republish it.)
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