On 6 February 2020, Nigerian security forces confirmed that they conducted a counterterrorism operation near the town of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state during the early morning hours of 5 February. The operation targeted a large camp housing several hundred members of the Islamist militant group Ansaru, along with other individuals allegedly involved in terror-related and criminal activities, including cattle rustling, kidnappings and banditry. The Nigerian police force claimed that it killed at least 250 suspected terrorists and other high-profile criminals during the operation. At least 13 security personnel were wounded, including two police officers who were wounded when militants fired anti-aircraft weapons at a police helicopter involved in the operation.

Following the operation, on 7 February the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Nigeria, in which it now advises against all but essential travel “within 40km of the state border with Kaduna and Zamfara states in Niger State, west of the Kaduna River.”

Analyst Comment: Ansaru is a Nigeria-based al-Qaeda affiliate that had been largely dormant since 2013. Nonetheless, on 14 January the group claimed responsibility for an attack that targeted a convoy traveling along the Kaduna-Zaria Expressway in Kaduna state. At least six people — including the visiting emir of Potiskum local government area (LGA) — were killed in the attack., Following the attack, emerging reports have indicated that Ansaru has been plotting additional attacks across central Nigeria, including in Edo, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara and Niger states. Although terrorism is a significant concern across Nigeria, terrorist attacks are more common in the northeastern states compared to the central states, including Kaduna.