Suspected members of the extremist Boko Haram sect have shot dead five persons believed to be humanitarian workers.
Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups, has long threatened the security of the vast swathes of West and Central Africa. But now the coronavirus pandemic is adding a new dimension of danger.
Boko Haram – whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ – reached the height of its power five years ago, soon after it kidnapped 276 of mainly Christian schoolgirls from their school in the town of Chibok, northeastern Nigeria in 2014.
In 2015, the jihadists controlled an area of Nigeria equivalent to the size of Belgium. The fighters sought to turn themselves from insurgents to rulers and impose their ruthless interpretation of Islam over a so-called ‘caliphate’.
Since then, national governments helped by their Western partners have beaten the group back, shrunk its territory and forced it into a gruesome guerrilla war.
Just before the pandemic struck, many political actors around the Lake Chad Basin in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad were discussing how to consolidate these gains and ultimately, defeat Boko Haram.
But now, local governments are scrambling to shore up their healthcare systems and redeploying precious resources away from fighting the jihadists. At the same time, Western nations are turning in on themselves, fretting about post-virus austerity and retrenchment.
The fight against Boko Haram has cost thousands of lives and displaced millions. But now there is a real risk that the group could make up lost ground and make the coronavirus pandemic worse.
Escape from Boko Haram | ‘If you gave me a gun, I would finish them all’
The terror group horrified the world when it kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014. But what happened to those who survived? In Maiduguri, photographer Simon Townsley meets those who escaped. Words by Will Brown. Read more
I was born in Borno State and grew up in Yobe State, the group’s epicentre and have family members who still live in the region. I have received three death threats from Boko Haram’s leaders for my work analysing the conflict. But now the joint threat of Boko Haram and Covid-19 terrifies me.
Boko Haram’s attacks are a significant distraction for those trying to stop the virus from spreading.
Take Chad. The nation of around 15 million people confirmed its first case of coronavirus on March 19. The pandemic is bringing some of the most advanced health care systems in the world to their knees and Chad only has ten intensive care beds.
But the jihadists are making things far worse. Four days after Chad confirmed coronavirus had come to the country, Boko Haram launched a huge attack killing nearly 100 local soldiers, in one of the deadliest incidents in the country’s history.
The damage was so significant that Idriss Déby, Chad’s dictator of thirty years, was forced to leave the capital and his country’s Covid-19 response behind and rush to Lake Chad with his troops to direct a military intervention.
On the same day in March, at least 47 Nigerian soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram ambush, as the country recorded a sharp rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The head of Nigeria’s army had been preparing his troops to enforce lockdowns, transfer patients to hospitals and prepare for mass burials. But he was forced to leave the army headquarters and mount an offensive against the group.
It is clear that both attacks drew attention away from efforts to fight the virus and forced governments to fight on two fronts with stretched resources.
There is no doubt that Boko Haram recognises the opportunity that Covid-19 offers them. Boko Haram’s breakaway group, Islamic State West Africa Province, recently boasted that the pandemic is an opportunity to step up efforts and expand activities.
In an editorial in Isil central’s bi-weekly Arabic language magazine, it celebrated recent attacks in the Lake Chad region. It said the virus and subsequent economic downturn would divert government attention, weaken capacity and increase fragility, giving its fighters more inroads.
The jihadists have a long history of targeting health and aid workers which will certainly imperil coronavirus testing and treatment efforts in remote areas.
The group has attacked polio immunisation campaigners, executed workers from Action Against Hunger and the International Committee of the Red Cross. If a vaccine were developed, Boko Haram would almost undoubtedly slow distribution in the areas they operate in.
The preachings may also damage the local people’s compliance with health measures and feed into widespread misconceptions about Covid-19.
The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has released recordings claiming non-Muslims and their Muslim puppets are using Covid-19 to attack Islam by stopping Muslims from practising their faith. He has encouraged people to keep taking part in group prayers and other religious activities.
In the most recent death threat I received from them last month, the 24-minute audio also mocked the government’s Covid-19 efforts.
So far there have only been just over 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and fewer than 700 reported deaths in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad put together.
However, we must not be complacent. There have been reports of hundreds of unexplained deaths across northern Nigeria and testimonies from health care workers point towards a major outbreak of the virus.
West Africa has many of the same characteristics that made Afghanistan a hotbed for extremist violence. If there is anywhere Isil can replicate its territorial achievements in Iraq and Syria, it is there.
While Western governments have their own struggles with the pandemic, they must recognise that the virus will only exacerbate the security situation in West Africa. They must keep up their support for the fight against extremist violence in the region.
The UK should proceed with the proposed deployment of an additional 250 British troops to the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is another crucial part of the fight against jihadi groups that are becoming more and more connected. The US should also reconsider its reported move to withdraw its forces from West Africa.
Meanwhile, in my part of the world, families and governments alike face an unholy alliance between brutal militias claiming to fight for God and a deadly new enemy in the form of the coronavirus.
- Bulama Bukarti is Africa Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
This article has an estimated read time of six minutes
Halima remembers that day all too clearly. It was 3pm and the air in her village in northern Nigeria was heavy with moisture.
She was giving water to her two brothers who had just arrived from Lagos. But before she could hear all their tales of the faraway metropolis, army vehicles rolled into the village.
“Lots of men dressed in uniforms got out. People thought it was the army. Then the men started shouting Allah Akbar and shooting,” she says.
“We hid inside the house. My brothers peeped out and were seen. I saw them both shot in the chest. They came inside and found my husband. They took him outside, held him down and cut off his head. Then they picked it up by the ear and flung it into the air.”
The gunmen belonged to Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terror groups on Earth. The jihadist loaded the 24-year-old, 30 other women and several children into vehicles and drove them away.
Dressed in a bright purple Hijab, Halima sits on the outskirts of a dusty refugee camp in northeastern Nigeria. After allowing herself to cry for only a minute, she composes herself and tries to recount how she escaped after six years of being Boko Haram’s slave.
In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, prompting a huge international outcry. But as the world’s attention turned elsewhere, the group has continued to abduct thousands of women and girls.
Boko Haram – whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ in the local Hausa language – launched an uprising for an Islamic State in northeastern Nigeria in 2009.
After being driven out of Maiduguri, Borno State’s ramshackle capital, the group set up strongholds in the rough terrain of the Gwoza hills and the Sambisa forest.
Abubakar Shekau, a gangster-like cleric, became the group’s leader in 2010 and launched a sadistic campaign of terror across the Lake Chad region into southern Niger, northern Cameroon and Chad.
Hamstrung by low morale and decades of corruption, the Nigerian military struggled to stop Boko Haram’s advance.
Despite frequent declarations of victory by the Nigerian government, Boko Haram and their breakaway group, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) have proven extraordinarily resilient. Reportedly, the jihadists have killed thousands of local soldiers over the last two years.
Women and girls have been at the heart of Boko Haram’s military strategy. In 2013, Boko Haram started to come under massive pressure from powerful vigilante groups. In response, Shekau sanctioned the use of girls and women as human bombs.
“They worked out that girls could get more explosives through checkpoints under their hijabs. It has been devastating. No one expected it,” says Bulama Bukarti, an analyst from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, who Shekau has threatened with death three times.
Abducted girls are indoctrinated with extreme violence and religious teachings for months on end. “They put you in a house for a year and brainwash you. After that, you would kill your own father,” says one survivor who was abducted when she was 12 and strapped with a suicide vest.
After being abducted and made to recite the Quran for a year and a half, seventeen-year-old Aisha, was given a choice to marry a fighter or blow herself up. “I said I would rather die than marry them,” says Aisha, a diminutive, softly spoken girl.
Fighters put an explosive jacket on Aisha and left her near an army checkpoint, saying they would hunt her down if she did not blow herself up. “All I could think about was the soldiers [who would] lose their lives. [I thought] if I do this thing, I will go directly into hellfire,” she says.
Aisha, 20, (not her real name) was abducted at the age of 16. She refused to marry so was instead forced to wear an explosive vest and told to detonate it at an army road block
At the checkpoint, she started to cry out for help. “Three soldiers came to help me take the bomb off. They said: ‘don’t cry, nothing will happen to you’,” says Aisha. “If I saw Boko Haram again in my life and you gave me a gun, I would finish them all.”
Many others have not been as lucky. Since the first reported use of a female suicide bomber by Boko Haram in June 2014, hundreds of girls and women have been forced to blow themselves up in crowded markets and near checkpoints.
Survivors told The Telegraph they had seen countless men and women executed by hanging, stoning or having their throats slit for trying to escape. People are also killed in Boko Haram’s bush camps for committing moral offences like smoking or adultery.
Young girls said that they had to collect stones for the executions at first. But after a while, they were made to throw the rocks themselves. One 10-year-old survivor said children were made to cut adults’ throats and drink their blood from a calabash.
Even if Boko Haram wives and children manage to escape, humanitarians say they face huge stigma when they return to society.
“The Boko Haram children are often rejected by their mothers who see them as a permanent reminder of their times in the camps. If their own mothers don’t accept them, then the community won’t either.
“Some women who have been rejected feel it is better to go back to Boko Haram. We tell these women and their children that there is hope,” says Geoffrey Ijumba, Chief of UNICEF’s field office in northeastern Nigeria.
Halima’s convoy moved through the bush for 10 days. Most of the children with them died along the way because of a lack of water, she says.
Finally, they arrived at the Shekau’s camp in the Sambisa forest. The camp was filled with hundreds of fighters and made up of mud huts with thatched or metal roofs. Survivors said the camp was full of hidden defences like underground tunnels and bunkers.
The women were raped by any man who wanted them and made to recite radical interpretations of the Quran. They were married off to fighters. “If you refused, they made you a slave for sex and hard labour,” Halima says.
In a desperate attempt to make herself less attractive to the men, she pretended to be mad. It worked for a year, but eventually, they forced her to marry a fighter, who raped and beat her.
When Halima became pregnant, she decided she had to escape with her unborn child, even if she died trying.
She tried to run away several times, but she didn’t know the area and every time she was caught, locked up without food and left with only a wrap to cover herself.
Halima with two of her children. She escaped Boko Haram after being held captive for four years
“After the third time, they said they would pass judgement and kill me,” says Halima matter-of-factly.
Knowing that she would almost certainly be killed with his unborn child, her jihadi husband decided to help her.
With his help, she managed to get out along bush trails. She walked for ten days into Cameroon, where she gave birth to twins.
Halima is deeply traumatised from her experience. When she eventually was taken to a camp for displaced people, she barely ate for months.
Pulling down her veil, Halima shows the clear outline of a bullet still lodged in the left-hand side of her back from one of her escape attempts.
“They are not human beings,” she says, looking down at the floor. “I am scared they will not forget about me. They chopped my husband like a block of wood.
“Everything I ever had is gone.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities
SOURCE: The Telegraph Uk
While a lot of attention has been devoted to understanding the reasons, causes and patterns of Boko Haram’s activities, very little attention has been invested in understanding their victims. More specifically, little research has been done on the plight of people who were originally from the southern states and lived in the north for decades until they became targets of Boko Haram. Research could inform efforts to help them adjust to the changes in their lives.
We conducted a study involving a number of people who had returned to Orlu, Imo State, in southeast Nigeria, after Boko Haram had forced them to flee from the north. Most of the returnees were economic migrants who had gone north in search of work opportunities. We found that on their return home many were considered “strangers in their own land”.
Our study added to others on forced-return migration in conflict zones and post-conflict reintegration challenges and coping strategies. We found that the connection maintained with the homeland – including phone calls and sending remittances – affected their acceptance or rejection by people at home.
Most of the returnees we spoke to felt like strangers on their return. The fact that they had not been physically present led them to lose touch with certain parts of their culture. They seemed like outsiders to people at home.
The study points to the importance of maintaining relationships between diasporas and home communities.
Victims’ experiences before forced return
Our interviewees experienced the violence caused by Boko Haram’s deadly attacks in northern Nigeria. They witnessed their friends and relatives being killed. One man who had lived in Kano State before escaping to Orlu told us how he had left Kano:
One day I came back from church service on Sunday (and) about to eat when I received a phone call that the church I left had been bombed by Boko Haram leaving 30 people dead. I was afraid and then I drove to my friend’s house and found him and his family dead … I could not think straight, all I managed to think was how to drive myself to Orlu … I left my shop and properties in the house but I thank God for my life.
A woman teacher stated:
There are times we went to hide inside gutter till morning … The last time we hid inside gutter was when my son died; they killed my only son before my eyes.
The experiences of others were limited to the economic effects of terrorism on their livelihoods. For example, shops sometimes had to be closed for fear of attack. People devised strategies to survive, such as reconstructing their identity to blend with host communities.
Challenges in the homeland
The people in our study didn’t experience a seamless reintegration when they got home. They came up against hurdles of identity, high cost of living and a lack of knowledge about local business conditions. These experiences varied according to sex, age and marital status.
We found that one major determinant of acceptance back home was whether they had sent remittances while in the North. Those that had done so had little difficulty being accepted and finding support. Their predicament of having to return home was viewed as a temporary set-back. They enjoyed empathy and sympathy from people who saw them as their own.
Those who did not send remittances home had little or no support.
A married woman who lived in Jos, Plateau State, told us about trying to make a living from selling “abacha,”, a salad, made with cassava:
You know if you stay away from people and suddenly come back to do business with them it will look as if you are a stranger in your own land. Some of them when they come to buy abacha they will be telling me to stop using this and that, start using this and that, even when nothing is wrong with the abacha, just because I have lived in the north. Even when you do what they asked you to do, they will not still be satisfied with the abacha.
Many displaced victims were unable to carry out their responsibilities at home. For example, they couldn’t pay their children’s tuition fees. Some also lost their relationships owing to financial incapacity. Others were alienated and poorly regarded in the community.
Many returnees expressed the view that they felt internally displaced. Even when they thought they were at home, their experiences were like those of strangers.
Governments, at various levels, should assist returnee victims of terrorism to make them stable and boost their economic and psychological re-integration into their society. This task can be handled by the victims’ local government through the registration of returnees, assessing their needs and organising programmes to meet those needs
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — The six young women set down their bombs and stood around the well, staring into the dark void.
As captives of Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terror groups on earth, the women had been dispatched for the grimmest of missions: go blow up a mosque and everyone inside.
The women wanted to get rid of their bombs without killing anyone, including themselves. One of them, Balaraba Mohammed, then a 19-year-old who had been blindfolded and kidnapped by Boko Haram a few months earlier, came up with a plan: They removed their headscarves and tied them into a long rope. Ms. Mohammed attached the bombs and gingerly lowered them into the well, praying it was filled with water.
“We ran for our lives,” Ms. Mohammed said.
In the decade-long war with Boko Haram that has coursed through northeast Nigeria and spread to three neighboring countries, more than 500 women have been deployed as suicide bombers or apprehended before they carried out their deadly missions — a number that terrorism experts say exceeds any other conflict in history.
But most women who broke away from Boko Haram keep their abductions secret, knowing they would be stigmatized as terrorist sympathizers even though they were held against their wills and defied the militants. They walk the streets of Maiduguri in the shadow of billboards celebrating the heroism of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot for standing up to the Taliban.
The women are often forgotten, not unlike the more than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped from the village of Chibok who remain missing — nearly six years after their abduction caused such global alarm.
Dozens of women interviewed by The New York Times have said that Boko Haram gave them a terrible choice: “marry” the group’s fighters or be deployed as bombers. Captives have said some women chose instead to blow up only themselves.
Ms. Mohammed said she arrived at the Boko Haram camp in a daze in 2012. Boko Haram had murdered her husband in front of her after he criticized the group. Days later they came back for Ms. Mohammed, throwing her baby to the ground and abducting her. She thought her daughter was dead.
New female captives would arrive every time fighters left the camp. Some of them were raped and forced to take birth control pills, she said. Some of them were used to test suicide vests.
At the camp, Ms. Mohammed said she listened as two women began discussing ways to kill themselves so they would no longer have to suffer there.
A militant overheard them and became angry.
“What is so difficult about killing yourselves?” he asked.
He shot them both to death.
“I was so scared,” Ms. Mohammed recalled.
She considered suicide, but she thought of her ailing grandmother who needed her as caretaker. To get out of being married off to a fighter, she said she feigned sickness. To get out of weapons training, she faked mental illness.
When fighters gave her a bomb, she said, “I felt as if I was dead.” She knew she would have to go, or be shot too.
Which is how she found herself with five others at the edge of that well.
The bombs didn’t detonate and the young women, scared and unsure what to do, ran back to the Boko Haram camp, Ms. Mohammed said. They swore on a Quran to their captors they had accomplished their mission, and that they ran so fast to escape that they lost their hijabs on the way.
Cheers went up, and the fighters convened a feast to celebrate the women they thought had become killers.
The six women, two of them barely teenagers, had outsmarted Islamist extremists.
But the women’s relief was short-lived.
Fighters soon decided they were ruthless enough to be ready for weapons training, she said, handing them guns and lining up other captives for live target practice.
One of the girls who had thrown her bomb into the well was so distraught that she ran into the hail of bullets in the firing squad, killing herself, Ms. Mohammed said.
For women trying to escape Boko Haram’s clutches, all the options are bad. Those trying to surrender to the authorities are sometimes killed by nervous soldiers, according to UNICEF. Members of a civilian vigilante force said they had shot one woman last year who approached their outpost on the edge of Maiduguri, and her bomb exploded.
One teenager, whose name was withheld for security reasons, was 16 when she said she was drugged and strapped with a suicide belt and sent out with two other women who also carried bombs to blow up soldiers at a checkpoint. One of the women had an infant strapped to her back. The three decided they would turn themselves in.
As the group approached the checkpoint to surrender, one of the women stopped behind a tree to urinate, the teenager said. When the woman squatted, her bomb accidentally detonated. Soldiers heard the blast and ran toward the group. Terrified, the woman with the infant ran off, untying the baby, who dropped to the ground. The baby girl sat on the ground crying, and the teenager thought of her own baby, who had died of starvation a month earlier in the Boko Haram camp where they were held hostage.
The teenager, her bomb still attached, said she picked up the child and soothed her until soldiers removed her explosives. She still cares for the girl, now age 3, and plans to never tell her that she is adopted.
“To her, I am her real mother,” she said. “This is what God sent to me.”
After the trick at the well, fighters sent Ms. Mohammed and the other women on a second suicide mission, replacing the girl who had died by running into the firing squad with a new captive. She said their target was to be a market in Banki, a once-bustling town. One of the fighters planned to escort the women. But the new captive assured the militants she was from Banki and knew her way through the countryside.
Again, the women collected their bombs and used their hijabs to lower them into the well. They sprinted back to the fighters’ camp expecting the same joyous reception.
But fighters were shocked to see them arrive so soon.
Just then, the radio crackled with news: a bombing had been reported in Banki — but in a small village outside the main town, not in the market. The fighters turned on the new captive, thinking she had led the women to the wrong place.
They shot her to death.
Days went by and fighters came and went, engaging in fierce battles that claimed some of their lives. They wanted revenge. They prepared Ms. Mohammed and other women for a major operation, to blow up the Monday Market, the biggest in northeast Nigeria.
They loaded some 20 cars, motorbikes and stolen military trucks with bombers and fighters and drove to the market. Ms. Mohammed said she was sick, and too weak to even get out of the car. She sat inside as bombs exploded and the vehicle sped away.
Ms. Mohammed was driven back to the camp and remained ill for several days, locked in a tin shack with other captives as they listened to fighters preparing for vigilante forces to invade the camp.
“I was saying in my heart that ‘Oh God, even if I would die, let my relatives find my corpse,’” she said.
She heard gunshots and a loud noise. She lost consciousness.
Hadiza Musa, who had joined the local vigilante force to avenge the Boko Haram capture of her sister, arrived to find a horrific scene: the entire camp was on fire and there was carnage everywhere. In an attempt to distract the vigilantes, Ms. Musa said, it appeared that Boko Haram had blown up their own camp and their captives, and fled.
Ms. Musa said she sifted through the dead and came across Ms. Mohammed, who was unconscious with burns covering her body and blood pouring from what looked like a bullet wound to her leg. Ms. Musa cried as she helped ferry Ms. Mohammed to a hospital.
Ms. Musa stayed by Ms. Mohammed, caring for her until she was conscious. She tracked down her grandmother and told Ms. Mohammed the first good news she had heard in months: her baby, Hairat, was alive.
Boko Haram is still plaguing Maiduguri, where their movement began. Last month, militants attacked vehicles lined up at a checkpoint outside the city, killing at least 30 people, some who burned to death while sleeping in their cars, local officials said.
When President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in Maiduguri to console mourners, he was jeered. The Nigerian military has struggled to gain the upper hand against fighters now armed with drones, machinery and weapons they have stolen from raiding military encampments and convoys.
Recently, the numbers of suicide bombings have declined as Boko Haram and its factions have focused on targeting military forces. Yet the incidents persist. In January in nearby Chad, a woman bomber killed nine people, and in Maiduguri, two female bombers blew up a market, killing two people.
In all, more than 540 women and girls have been deployed or arrested as bombers since June 2014, according to an estimate by Elizabeth Pearson, a lecturer at Cyber Threats Research Center and at Swansea University in Wales who reviewed years of media and United Nations reports.
Ms. Musa and Ms. Mohammed now consider themselves sisters. Ms. Mohammed still bears scars from burns to her face, arms and legs. In Maiduguri where she lives with Hairat, who is now in first grade, some neighbors who know she was abducted are suspicious and think she might be loyal to Boko Haram.
“The best thing is for you to be killed,” a neighbor told Ms. Mohammed.
She tries to ignore those kinds of comments. After all, she knows none of the ordeal was her fault. She pays for Hairat’s schooling by knitting caps and selling soft drinks from a rented mini-refrigerator. She makes regular trips to the morgue to search for her brother’s body; he disappeared after he dropped out of college to join the vigilantes to avenge Ms. Mohammed’s capture.
Ms. Mohammed has started training to become a nurse. She wants to give back. But she couldn’t afford fees for recent exams after an uncle kicked her out of his house, still suspicious of her time with militants.
Until she can save up money for the exam, she keeps a first aid kit with her, in case she comes across anyone needing help.
Dionne Searcey is a politics reporter at The New York Times where she recently worked as the West Africa bureau chief and is author of the forthcoming book, “In Pursuit of Disobedient Women.” @dionnesearcey • Facebook
The Nigerian government recently announced that it had released about 1,400 Boko Haram suspects. The reason given was they had repented and were to be re-integrated into society. The government said the releases – which happened in three tranches – were part of its four-year old de-radicalisation programme called Operation Safe Corridor.
These reactions mask a fundamental challenge facing governments in conflict situations: how does it deal with defectors? Simply executing combatants, or detaining them indefinitely, aren’t viable options. De-radicalisation and re-integration programmes therefore become unavoidable.
As several commentators on the Boko Haram conflict have repeatedly maintained, such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a purely military solution won’t defeat the group.
Generally ‘de-radicalisation’ is understood to involve having people with extreme and violent religious or political ideologies adopt more moderate and non-violent views. The approach is predicated on the assumption that terrorists, and others with extremist views, can be engaged in a way that can reduce their risk of re-offending.
But there are a number of questions that ‘de-radicalisation’ and ‘re-integration’ programmes raise. These include: is it possible to screen the combatants well enough to measure what level of threat they pose? This is a problem in a country like Nigeria where the basis of selecting those who are being released isn’t transparent. For example, there are allegations that criminal elements in the military have colluded with Boko Haram to secure the release of unrepentant terrorists.
And is it fair to rehabilitate the combatants without also rehabilitating their victims?
Most countries faced with violent extremism and terrorism have adopted one form or another of de-radicalisation programmes. Whether they have worked or not is hard to judge because assessments are very often made by people responsible for the programmes. But one thing is clear: governments don’t have many viable alternatives.
Nigeria has three main de-radicalisation programmes. One is located in Kuje prison, Abuja, and was set up by the Nigerian government in 2014. Participants are combatants convicted of violent extremist offences and inmates awaiting trial. The aim of the programme is to combat religious ideology and offer vocational training as a prelude to re-integrating them into communities.
There is also the Yellow Ribbon Initiative which is located in communities in Borno State, in the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of the country. This is organised by a not for profit organisation, the Neem Foundation. It was set up in 2017 and targets women, children and young people associated with Boko Haram.
The third is Operation Safe Corridor, which was set up in 2016 by the government. It targets Boko Haram combatants who have surrendered. This approach targets three key issues: religious ideology, structural or political grievances and post-conflict trauma.
The project engages Imams to work with those in the programme on religion. Participants are also offered training in rudimentary vocational skills. And they are offered therapy to overcome the trauma they faced as members of Boko Haram.
A wide range of countries have introduced de-radicalisation programmes.
In Africa, the four Lake Chad basin countries – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad – have their own versions. In Somalia, the Serendi Rehabilitation Centre in Mogadishu offers support to ‘low-risk’ former members of Al-Shabaab.
In Northern Ireland, the Early Release Scheme ensured the conditional release of convicted terrorists under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It was deemed essential to sustaining the country’s peace process.
In Colombia, former guerrillas who fought for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were invited to join a peace building programme called the ‘collective reincorporation’.
Do they work?
There is no consensus on what constitutes success in reforming a terrorist.
There is, however, general acceptance that a narrow focus on recidivism as the key metric has been discredited. This is because the reasons for peoples’ behaviour isn’t always understood. For example, re-offending could well have been stimulated by new impulses after release. On the other hand, not re-offending does not necessarily mean the person has abandoned extremist views.
There is also confusion about whether any kind of rehabilitation is necessarily brought about by the de-radicalisation programme. For example, it could be more about the desire for freedom, or to access some benefits that go with a rehabilitation programme.
Measuring success isn’t easy. Official information is likely to be biased as the state and groups running programmes are wont to paint a rosy picture to justify the expenditure.
Additionally, whether a de-radicalisation programme is deemed successful or not may be subjective depending on what metrics are used. A good example is the research done for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. It praised Nigeria’s Operation Safe Corridor to the high heavens, arguing that it was a model of rehabilitation for Africa as well as the Western world. Yet a report for the Carnegie Foundation was very critical of the programme on several grounds. This included a lack of clarity on eligibility and as well as how former combatants would be re-integrated into civilian life.
Not many options
The question often not asked about de-radicalisation programmes is: what’s the alternative?
Framed this way, it’s obvious that governments facing challenges of terrorism and violent extremism have virtually no other alternative.
But that shouldn’t stop criticism of the way in which programmes are run. The Nigerian government’s release of 1,400 former Boko Haram fighters is a case in point. It was handled badly, not least because the public was told after the event.
The timing was also inauspicious. There is currently a resurgence of attacks by the terrorist group. At the same time President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is facing a declining sense of legitimacy . These factors helped harden attitudes and drove the push-back from Nigerians.
More than 100 “terrorists” have been killed in south-west Niger by local forces in a joint operation with French troops, the country’s defence ministry said.
As of Thursday “120 terrorists have been neutralised” in the operation in the vast Tillaberi region near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, the statement on Friday said, adding there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops. Vehicles and bomb-making equipment were seized.
Niger’s defence minister, Issoufou Katambe, praised the “cooperation … in the battle against terrorism”, the statement said.
Sudan refugees pushed into Niger desert after camp burned down
Authorities in the restive Tillaberi region have ramped up security restrictions, closing markets and banning motorbike traffic after attacks by jihadist groups over December and January killed 174 Nigerien soldiers.
A state of emergency has been in place in the region for the past two years.
Since 2015, Niger has struggled against a wave of jihadist attacks near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso in the west, exacerbating needs in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced.
France this year said it would boost its military presence in the troubled west African region by deploying 600 fresh troops to its 4,500-strong operation.
At least 245 persons were killed in violent attacks across Nigeria in January 2020, according to various newspaper reports and available records.
According to the Expat Insider Survey of 2019 by InterNations, Nigeria is the third most dangerous country in the world due to widespread corruption and insecurity.
While the Presidency disagrees with such reports that criticise President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of security, members of the National Assembly have lamented the security situation in Nigeria.
Apart from the resurgent Boko Haram attacks in the North-east, there have been increased cases of killings and kidnappings across the country.
This led to protest by members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) across the country on Sunday.
Amidst the insecurity, the Presidency has said Nigerians have reasons to be grateful as the security situation is better than it was before Mr Buhari assumed office.
“We know what the situation was as at 2015 and we know what it is today. Despite the reversals in security, it is still not as bad as it used to be in this country,” Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s spokesperson, said recently. Mr Adesina has been widely criticised for his comments.
Here are the recorded killings in January:
January 2 – Eight Boko Haram terrorists were killed by Nigerian soldiers when the insurgents tried to attack Michika in Adamawa State.
January 4 – Suspected gunmen killed 23 people at Tawari community in Kogi Local Government Area, LGA, of Kogi State.
January 6 – In Gamboru, Borno State, no fewer than 30 persons were killed after an improvised device exploded on a bridge.
On the same day, four Nigerian Navy officers were killed by suspected pirates while another three foreign sailors were kidnapped in an attack on a dredging ship in the waterways of the Niger Delta.
In Niger State, an army officer and three soldiers were killed by bandits in the Gwarm village, Munya Local Government Area of Niger State during routine patrol.
January 7 – A police officer attached to one of the new generation banks in Ekeki suburbs of Yenagoa, in Bayelsa killed a driver, NYSC member, one other.
January 9 – The Plateau State Police Command confirmed the death of 12 persons killed by suspected herdsmen who also injured one at Kulben village of Kombun District of Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.
January 11 – Four Air force officers were shot dead by bandits in Kaduna.The suspects laid an ambush for the security operatives at Unguwan Yako, close, along Kaduna- Birnin Gwari road.
January 14 – The clash between farmers and herdsmen killed two in Sobe, Owan Local Government Area of Edo State while four naval ratings were killed in Gbagira Village, Ilaje LGA of Ondo State. The naval officers were trying to rescue three foreigners from pirates.
January 16 – Bandits stormed a village in Gummi LGA, Zamfara State, shot sporadically and killed at least 29 people. Also unknown gunmen attacked the convoy of Alhaji Umaru Bubaram Emir of Postikum, killing six people.
January 18 – One soldier and four Boko Haram militants were killed during an attack on an aid facility in Ngala, Borno and at least 20 internally displaced persons waiting for assistance at the facility were killed. In the same state, Boko Haram killed four soldiers in Bama.
On the same day, a sectarian violence led to the death of four people in Igalamela-Odolu, Kogi State.
January 19 – Vandals busted a fuel pipeline in Lagos and the action led to explosion that killed five in Alimosho.
Also on January 19, a video of a boy executing a man identified as a Christian hostage by suspected Boko Haram surfaced online.
January 20 – at least 17 soldiers killed while many others were abducted in two confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents on Bama-Gwoza highway.
January 21 – At least, eight soldiers were killed during a battle with Boko Haram insurgents in Kaga, Borno. The insurgents camouflaged in a police vehicle and approached a military base then opened fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench.
Also, unidentified gunmen killed four in Keana, Nassarawa. In addition, Boko Haram insurgents killed the Chairman, CAN, in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Lawal Andimi, after reportedly refusing a ransom offered for his release. Gunmen also killed one and kidnapped fourteen in Batsari, Katsina.
January 23 – Boko Haram killed 10 loggers in Dikwa, Borno. The incident occurred in the remote village of Lura near Dikwa town, headquarters of Dikwa LGA.
January 24 – Mob killed two suspected POS robbers at the Biogbolo suburb of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
January 25 – suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Gwoza, Borno State. The explosion killed three people and many people were injured.
Also, gunmen killed 13 people at Kwatas village in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State while bandits killed 11 people in Niger communities.
January 27 – A man stabbed his girlfriend to death “for receiving a phone call from a male friend in Bauchi State.”
January 29 – A man, Kalu Ilum shot his wife at Etitiama Nkporo community in Ohafia council area of Abia State. In retaliation, he was set ablaze for the act by a mob.
Also, suspected herdsmen killed two Owan community in Ovia North East LGA of Edo State.
January 30 – Armed robbers killed Adebayo Mukaila, a serving member of National Youth Service Corps in Osun State.
Sources familiar with the continued incarceration of Omoyele Sowore have said the Nigerian activist was questioned earlier this week over purported ties to Boko Haram and other outlawed groups.
Terrorism allegations were the focus of a grilling session conducted with Mr Sowore by State Security Service operatives on November 12, two sources familiar with the event said last.
“Agents have been asking him to tell them about his relationship with Boko Haram, Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra,” a source said on Sunday afternoon. “He has continued to deny any relationship with all these groups.”
Boko Haram was outlawed by the Jonathan administration and later designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States in November 2013.
President Buhari’s categorisation of Shiite IMN and separatist IPOB has remained one of the most controversial decisions of his government, with opinions splitting over whether a religious or self-determination group could be outlawed under a secular constitutional democracy.
The information came 10 days after Nigerians had been demanding official explanation for the controversial re-arrest of Mr Sowore on December 6.
The questioning indicated the secret police has started fresh plots to file yet another set of criminal charges against the Sahara Reporters, and would likely be before another judge.
It came a week after Mr Sowore was violently seized from a federal courtroom by armed agents of the SSS, a domestic intelligence outfit reputable for acts of repression and targeted attacks on anti-government voices.
Mr Sowore was released the night preceding the December 6 court invasion when the SSS pretended to obey the order of a federal judge handling the case.
The Sahara Reporters’ publisher was arrested on August 3 for leading #RevolutionNow campaign — a series of nationwide protests he had planned with other activists to demand a better Nigeria.
Following his arrest, the SSS accused Mr Sowore of terrorism, treason, amongst other claims, for using the word ‘revolution’ while rallying Nigerians ahead of the protests scheduled to take off across 21 Nigerian towns and cities on August 5.
Bloomgist Politics | Read more
On November 8, a federal judge granted an initial remand order for the SSS to hold Mr Sowore in custody for 45 days to conclude investigation into ‘terrorism’ claims against him.
Mr Sowore remained in custody through the 45 days, despite the criticism that greeted the court’s decision to grant SSS such an extensive period to keep a citizen despite failing to present any evidence of crime.
By the time charges were eventually filed about 50 days after Mr Sowore was arrested, no reference was made to terrorism. The SSS charged Mr Sowore for treason, money laundering and purported defamation of Mr Buhari’s character.
The charges were prepared by Attorney-General Abubakar Malami’s office.
Following his initial arraignment after the charges were filed on September 20, Mr Sowore was granted bail on September 24 by Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, but the SSS declined to respect the judicial pronouncement. Instead, he was arraigned before another judge on similar charges.
On November 6, the second judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, signed a release warrant for Mr Sowore, but the SSS failed to comply again. It took Mr Sowore one month between October 4 when Ms Ojukwu first granted him bail on stringent terms and November 6 when he met the court’s demand after his lawyers convinced the judge to relax the conditions.
After court papers were served on the SSS showing Mr Sowore had met the bail terms and a judge had signed warrant for his release, the SSS repeatedly declined to honour order, jumping from one excuse to another.
Three weeks after the SSS ignored Ms Ojukwu’s order to release Mr Sowore, the judge threatened to hold its Director-General Yusuf Bichi in contempt.
But the threat did not appear to shake the secret police, which is controlled entirely by President Buhari without any external oversight mechanism for accountability.
Likely Fresh charges
Inibehe Effiong, one of the lawyers representing Mr Sowore, said the fresh terrorism charges being plotted by the SSS were the same claims that the agency had previously investigated but found nothing substantial for which to charge Mr Sowore.
“The charges are clearly not fresh,” Mr Effiong said in response to a PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry about ongoing plots to re-arraign his client on terrorism charges. “They are just looking for something to hide behind to continue their impunity.”
The SSS has declined to issue any explanation for the rearrest of Mr Sowore on December 6.
The activist was just kept in custody in apparent violation of his fundamental rights and the Nigerian criminal justice statutes which prohibit keeping suspects beyond 48 hours without charges.
“They clearly want to continue their attack on a harmless citizen in defiance of the court,” Mr Effiong said. “The terrorism allegations were specifically why they arrested him several months ago but they could not file charges because they had no evidence to prove anything.”
Mr Effiong said he would look forward to see which court would entertain the SSS purported terrorism charges yet again, because it would amount to “a charade and a grivous abuse of court process.”
Peter Afunanya, spokesperson for the SSS, did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ calls and messages seeking comments on why the recent interrogation of Mr Sowore.
Mr Effiong also criticised Mr Malami for “playing to the gallery” in his recent request to the SSS asking for Mr Sowore’s case to be transferred to his office.
“The attorney-generals’ office has always been in charge of the case files and it was the office that filed the initial charges against Mr Sowore,” Mr Effiong said. “We have no idea why he claimed to be taking over a case he has always been the one prosecuting.”
“He is supposed to end the charade that their government has embarked on rather than claiming he is taking over a matter he has been overseeing,” the lawyer added.
The attorney-general did not immediately return a request for comments from PREMIUM TIMES Sunday afternoon.
A Nigerian Army commander was killed on Saturday after an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Marte, Borno State.
Military sources said the army major, who was the commander of 153 Task Force Battalion in Marte Local Government Area, was leading a patrol of the unit’s perimeter when the bomb went off Saturday evening.
Our sources said the officer was the only one immediately confirmed killed in the attack. It was unclear whether some of his troops, including members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, were injured or killed during the patrol.
The name of the officer has been withheld as it was unclear whether or not his family has been notified by the military.
Army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, did not return a request for comment on the attack that killed the major.
The major has become the latest senior officer to die since a colonel was killed in battle mid-July.
Swathes of Marte Local Government Area were overrun by insurgents between late May and early June, but the military said the area had been recovered and future incursions would be prevented.
Insurgent attacks have reduced generally since late October, with the military crediting its new ‘super camp’ strategy that made it difficult for terrorists to overrun brigades and battalions.
Saturday’s attack has raised fresh concerns about Boko Haram’s ability to launch surprise strikes.
SOURCE: Premium Times
There was panic at the University of Maiduguri on Sunday night as soldiers battled to repel a Boko Haram attack on the higher institution.
Sources at the university, located along Maiduguri-Bama road, said deafening sounds of gunshots were heard echoing from a direction the female hostels are located.
The gunshots lasted for about an hour and a half as soldiers engaged the intruding Boko Haram gunmen.
“It was a Boko Haram attack which has been repelled effectively by our soldiers,” a top army official in Maiduguri told PREMIUM TIMES.
The situation caused panic among students who are in the middle of their second semester exams.
Many of the students tried to leave the university campus, fearing it could be overrun.
“But soldiers and other security personnel protecting the school urged them to remain in the campus because no one would be allowed back to the campus should they find the need to return,” the security source said asking not to be named as he was not permitted to talk to journalists.
A female student who identified herself as Victoria said “the shooting was very close to our hostel (named B.O.T) and we were all scared.”
Ms Victoria said though the shooting has subsided, many of them were still very frightened.
Another student, Khadija Muhammed, said they also heard the shooting right behind their hostel, called Aisha Buhari Hostel.
“We have all been lying down on the floor since the shooting commenced; it lasted for about one an hour before it finally stopped some minutes to 11pm,” she said.
The Boko Haram has waged an insurgency since 2009, causing the death of thousands of people.
Despite the efforts of security officials, the terror group is still able to carry out attacks on civilians and soldiers in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
SOURCE: Premium Times
Britain is considering stepping up its military efforts to help the Nigerian government defeat Boko Haram, following a rise in terrorist activity in the country’s north-east in the past year, Jeremy Hunt has said after a visit to the region.
The UK foreign secretary said on Wednesday that he will be discussing what more the British government can do in terms of aid and military support to combat the terrorist group, warning the crisis had the potential to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of that in Yemen.
Britain provides £240m in aid to Nigeria, of which £100m goes to the north-east, making it the second-largest donor after the US, and giving the UK a sizeable stake in what happens in the region.
Boko Haram and Islamic State in west Africa have terrorised the region for several years, but their activities came to the world’s attention when hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped in 2014.
British military personnel in Abuja and the wider region are giving strategic advice to Nigerian forces on how to run counterinsurgency operations, with their advice focused on combining humanitarian and military activities.
Nigeria evacuates whole town to screen for Boko Haram members
The Nigerian military has been repeatedly criticised by humanitarian groups for running brutal campaigns that make little effort to win over hearts and minds.
The 120,000-strong army is structured on very traditional lines but sends troops to highly hostile areas for as long as four years. Operating on a small budget, soldiers are often underpaid and morale is low.
Speaking on a visit to Maiduguri as part of a week-long trip to Africa, Hunt said: “It has got all the hallmarks of something that if you do not nip in the bud, it will get a lot worse. Conversely, it feels like a situation that it is something that could be dealt with if there was appropriate action by the government of Nigeria with international support.”
He said the crisis had spread to Niger, Chad and Cameroon. “There is a potential solution here … Nigeria is huge country and it is very stretched,” Hunt added.
Asked if he supported an increase in military action in the region, the UK foreign secretary said: “I think the crucial deciding factor is the willingness and enthusiasm of the Nigerian government and the Nigerian army to work closely with us – we would like to support and help them, but they are a sovereign nation and they have got to want our help.”
He said Britain wanted to bring holistic solutions, suggesting by implication that the Nigerian army has focused too heavily on militaristic solutions. “I think our approach is potentially a very significant one, because we could bring not just the British army but also DfID [the Department for International Development] and our experience in holistic solutions to these kind of situations,” Hunt added.
“This is a region of Africa that is being massively destabilised by conflict.
These things can escalate quite quickly and get out of control. We know from Sri Lanka that Daesh [Isis] are looking to make their presence felt now they have lost their territory. We have to be vigilant.”
He said Sri Lanka was not on anyone’s radar, and showed how threats can escalate. Nigeria was “an area where all the warning signs are there”, he said, adding that not all the conflict was driven by religion.
“The feedback I got from NGOs on the ground is that lack of trust between the authorities and local people is one of the things that is fuelling the problem at the moment. The Nigerian army strategy is largely about herding people into towns and saying if you are not in a secure area, we are going to assume you are Boko Haram and/or Islamic State west Africa,” he said.
“Such an approach was understandable in the short term, but the long-term risk is that you are depriving people of their livelihoods and their farms. There are 2 million people displaced living there at the moment in pretty horrific circumstances.
“Both NGOs and military analysts fear the recent increase in violence reflects changes in the terrorist leadership, and a failure by the Nigerian military to establish humanitarian plans to follow the military clearances of areas. The brutal methods only lead to a loss of support for the military.”
In northeastern Nigeria, the militant group exploits a broken social system. There are lessons here for the rest of the world.
ahra and Amina seem like lucky survivors of the scourge of northeastern Nigeria, the jihadist movement known as Boko Haram. Both were wives of fighters. Zahra escaped by agreeing to detonate an explosive vest that the militants strapped to her. After walking miles to her intended target, a government checkpoint, she turned herself over to soldiers. Amina fled with her three children after her husband was killed in battle.
Today, both women live in a camp for survivors of the conflict in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. When I met them on a recent research trip to the city, the last thing I expected to hear was that they wanted to rejoin the insurgents. Conventional thinking and security policies that aim to dissuade women from extremist groups tend to focus on ideology, presuming that only brainwashing could compel them to voluntarily join radical, violent militias. But here in the northeast, some women have largely been compelled to affiliate with Boko Haram by social and political conditions. Perversely, the group offers them respite from insecurity and the limited opportunities afforded them in a deeply patriarchal society riven by poor governance.
Zahra and Amina say that when they were with the militants, life was harsh and uncertain, but they had enough to eat. As voluntary wives of fighters, they were protected from sexual predation. They attended religion classes, the first formal schooling many had ever received, and their children went to school, learning literacy and religion. There were courts where women could report abusive husbands. In contrast, in their now emancipated lives in the camp, they often go hungry. There is little chance to work to buy more food, and shortages have contributed to sexual exploitation by the security forces who guard them. “Most Boko Haram women regret coming here, because life is just so hard,” says Amina.
These two women are just one small part of a massive humanitarian and security crisis that has been unfolding across the Lake Chad basin – the area where Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon meet – since 2014. Overshadowed by the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the scale of humanitarian disaster in the region is nevertheless vast: more than 2.4 million people displaced, 5 million in need of food and shelter, and half a million children at famine levels of malnourishment.
While the Boko Haram insurgency may not directly affect the west – it doesn’t contribute to migration flows and the militants are not involved in attacks in Europe – the experiences of Boko Haram women carry wide implications for our understanding of why people join such movements. While the group, like many others that self-identify as “jihadist”, deploys ideological rhetoric to promote its political goals, it is the deprived and fractious context in which it operates that best explains its appeal – especially to women.
Zahra and Amina, like many women in the northeast, joined the militants by choice. They left by choice, too – unwilling to marry other fighters appointed by the group after their own husbands had died. Their stories challenge the dominant narrative around Boko Haram, shaped by the global outcry over the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnapping, which holds that women only join by force, and that, similarly, only those who were abducted can be regarded as genuine victims. Returning from Nigeria, I met a group of Swiss women who regularly spend their holidays doing freelance volunteer work with female victims of Boko Haram. “We only help the ones who were kidnapped,” one pointedly told me.
But the circumstances that propel women such as Zahra and Amina into and out of Boko Haram show the limits of the neat categories of victim and perpetrator. In the early days of the insurgency, many women found the movement appealing because it offered alternatives to the patriarchy endorsed by their conservative families. The group’s leaders supported lower dowries, which meant more young women could choose husbands from among their peers, rather than the greying, financially secure men they would be traditionally compelled to marry. And while the militants were only able to provide for them so generously by looting and pillaging, some women felt the Nigerian state’s corruption justified these abuses. Life in the forest felt freer and more dignified than living in the dust of an internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camp, dependent on international aid groups for a meal a day.
Even now, Zahra’s and Amina’s thinking about the group – their belief that returning to the militants would improve their lives – is mostly a calculus of immediate survival. Dalori II, the camp where they live, like most in the city, is chronically short on food, and across satellite camps in the region groups such as Amnesty International have documented an epidemic of rape and sexual exploitation. Some progress has been made to curtail these abuses, and humanitarian groups have tried to adjust food distribution practices to blunt the potential for abuse, but this has only changed the dynamic of the exploitation. “You have to become a harlot to stay in the camps,” says Amina.
One reason Zahra says she was glad to leave the militants was because she saw that their blind rejection of teaching in English was harming her children: “It does not benefit them to stay home. It’s better for them to learn.” She assumed that in Maiduguri, her kids would be able to attend school. But camp managers in Dalori II dismantled the one school on its premises, claiming it was no longer needed since people would be returning to their villages. But nobody has gone home, and now there is no school.
The northeast Nigerian state of Borno is now a vast patchwork of towns and villages with few men, a whole sub-society of single mothers trying to cope as breadwinners in areas with collapsed economies without their husbands’ protection and support. Some reintegration programmes offer skills training, but embroidering and selling a cap a month neither enables a woman to feed three children nor does it protect her from rape after dark. Plus, some international groups devote funds and attention to what they call “countering extremism”, with extremism often conceived in an amorphous way that views ideology, rather than a complex patchwork of political grievance and social frustrations, as a root cause of the violence.
While ending the insurgency and countering the militants’ appeal is obviously vital, it is also essential to recognise what precisely has guided women to join the militants in the first place. This has wider implications for the whole of the northeast, not just displaced women in the camps, or former Boko Haram women, but all women, who are trying to cope with conditions so impoverished and limiting that, sometimes, joining a militant group appears to offer a way out.
• Zahra’s and Amina’s names have been changed
• Azadeh Moaveni is senior gender analyst for the International Crisis Group and a former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine. Vincent Foucher, research fellow at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, Bordeaux, contributed reporting to this piece
Boko Haram has released photos of its attack on a village in Molai, on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
On Sunday, dozens of villagers fled their homes as suspected Boko Haram terrorists raided Maiborinti in the Molai general area, shooting sporadically and setting houses ablaze.
Dozens of the fleeing residents took refuge at Molai, some three kilometres away from the attacked village.
“Many are currently fleeing for their lives,” a resident had told SaharaReporters. “A village is under attack and as I am speaking to you, the smoke can be seen in Molai.”
A Borno source told said on Tuesday that the capital city was still under siege.
“Evidently, the city of Maiduguri is under siege as the Shehu of Borno told President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
On Monday, the insurgent group released photos from the attack, which you will find below:
Boko Haram insurgents have threatened another attack on the military base at Jiddari-Polo, Maiduguri.
The terrorists on Monday attacked farmers in the area, hacking four to death while one was left with severe injuries.
One of the survivors of the Monday attack, Mala Umara, told AFP that the terrorists came in large numbers.
“They came in large numbers and killed four and left the other man seriously injured,” the 75-year-old farmer said.
The insurgents were believed to belong to the Abubakar Shekau group.
Umara, added that while sparing him, the insurgents instructed him to tell the Nigerian Army to prepare for another attack.
“They asked me to deliver a message to the soldiers that they should be prepared for an attack soon,” the septuagenarian told AFP.
Another survivor, Abba Muhammad, said, “Five of them encircled me, but I instinctively bolted.”
The attack was also confirmed by a local militia leader, Babakura Kolo.
President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The President landed at the Air Task Force Base in Maiduguri at exactly 11: 02 am, and headed to the palace of the Shehu of Borno.
He is expected to attend the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference holding in Maiduguri on Wednesday, and will declare the event open.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in Benin, Edo State.
Buhari’s visit comes after a high-casualty attack by Boko Haram on the Army in Metele, Borno State, which resulted in the death of well over 100 soldiers.
Therefore, he will visit the military hospital, and will equally address the troops
The corpses of dozens of soldiers and civilian Joint Task force (JTF) members killed by Boko Haram in Metele, Borno State, have still not been evacuated, SaharaReporters has learnt.
More than 120 soldiers, including five officers, were killed and about 200 others are still missing after Boko Haram insurgents attacked a battalion station in Metele, Mobar Local Government Area, on the outskirts of Lake Chad Basin.
Troops sent to evacuate the dead soldiers two days later were also attacked.
According to a soldier who escaped from the follow-up attack, the evacuation team suffered high casualty as they fled, abandoning their operational vehicles at Metele then trekking 50 kilometers before getting to cross Kauwa, in Kukawa Local Government Area.
“It is devastating. More than 120 killed, including civilian JTF members who used to assist our men,” he told SaharaReporters.
“We have recovered close to 120 corpses. The terrorists came in large numbers to attacks them from every angle. They tactically backed out; many are yet to return from the troops who went on the evacuation mission.
“The corpses of both soldiers and civilians JTF are yet to be evacuated. We can’t ascertain the numbers but certainly up to a battalion, which comprises hundreds soldiers and also with civilian JTF, the death toll might be higher than a hundred. We are waiting for more information from those who escaped. But it is a tragedy for the entire Nigerian military, not just the Army.”
As a consequence of the tragedy, President Muhammadu Buhari is set to visit Borno, having cancelled a casual leave he was supposed to embark on from November 27 till December 2.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday ended almost a week of silence regarding attacks by Islamists which security sources said killed around 100 soldiers in the northeastern state of Borno.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed deep shock over the killing of military personnel,” the presidency said in an emailed statement issued by Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu.
“Immediate measures are being taken to ensure that the loopholes which led to the fatalities are blocked once and for all,” it said, adding that Buhari would hold strategic talks with military chiefs in the coming days.
Militants attacked a military base on Nov 18 in the village of Metele in Borno, the epicentre of an insurgency by Boko Haram and its splinter group, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA).
The attack was carried out by ISWA and killed around 100 Nigerian soldiers, four security sources told Reuters.
A fifth said 96 soldiers have died in the northeast in recent days, mostly in Metele, and Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in the last few days.
The toll is among the highest since Buhari came to power in 2015 and has raised pressure on him ahead of an election in February, not least because he has claimed victory over the nine-year insurgency.
Lawmakers in the Senate, parliament’s upper chamber, whose president is among Buhari’s political opponents, this week said 44 soldiers died in the Metele attack even though the military and presidency had not commented.
Analysts said it was a bid to undermine Buhari’s security record.
Saturday’s statement from the presidency, which did not make reference to the number of soldiers killed, follows days of criticism of the military and presidency in the Nigerian press and social media over their silence.
Buhari’s main opponent in the coming presidential poll, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, has repeatedly posted messages about the dead soldiers on Twitter in recent days.
The Nigerian Army issued a statement on Friday in which it confirmed that the attack on the military base had taken place but did not provide details of casualties.
Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler, made defeating the Islamist insurgency a central plank of his successful 2015 election campaign after attacks by Boko Haram in the run-up to that election weakened then-president Goodluck Jonathan.
(Reporting by Felix Onuah; additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram and Paul Carsten in Lagos; editing by Jason Neely)
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/New York Times
Rampaging Boko Haram insurgents overran a Nigerian Army battalion in Borno State on Sunday, killing the unit’s commander and dozens of soldiers.
A large cache of arms, ammunition and military equipment were carted away by Boko Haram fighters during the attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Abadam Local Government Area, at about 6:00 p.m., a setback for government forces trying to push terrorists further out of Nigeria’s northeastern flank.
There were fears for the fate of the troops from the base, which was raided only a month ago, as military sources said the Nigerian Army was making frantic efforts to contain the traumatic effect of the attack on the larger counterinsurgency operation.
Bodies of fallen troops were still being recovered and evacuated from the scene as of Tuesday morning, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. But dozens of soldiers from the battalion have already been confirmed killed, amongst them their commander. Military sources were unable to tell the number of Boko Haram casualties.
Military sources said the fallen commander was a lieutenant colonel, who had overseen the unit for a long time. He once allegedly refused to mobilise troops for an operation, citing unavailability of serviceable hardware, but faced threats of being court-martialed, sources said.
PREMIUM TIMES has decided to withhold the identity of the officer as it was not immediately clear his family had been informed of his death.
It was not immediately learnt how many soldiers were manning the base during the attack, which was linked to Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA).
The group has long targeted military bases, and has intensified its assaults in recent months on military formations across the volatile northeast.
A day before on November 17, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the base of Sector 2 troops in Mainok, Kaga Local Government Area, killing at least one soldier and leaving several others wounded. Military sources believed the Shekau faction of the group was responsible for the attack, which saw insurgents cart away a large quantity of arms and ammunition.
Both the Nigerian Army and the Defence Headquarters did not return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests seeking comments on the attacks Tuesday morning. A spokesperson for the Nigerian Air Force also did not return messages seeking comments.
It was only on October 8 that Boko Haram militants raided the same base of 157 Battalion in Metele, killing at least 18 soldiers and wounding eight others, PREMIUM TIMES reported.
At least 157 soldiers were feared missing during the attack, and their whereabouts had not been conclusively resolved by military brass over a month later, sources said.
Military authorities announced the attack, but heavily downplayed its magnitude.
President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian military leaders have claimed they are winning the war on terror, but analysts say recent attacks are bolstering rather than dampen fears of the insurgency.
“When you consider the frequency of these attacks since July, it is difficult to say that our military has the upper hand,” said security analyst Chris Ngwodo.
Mr Ngwodo said a possible failure on the part of the military leaders to appropriately fortify bases might be responsible for the audacious scope of the attacks.
“These bases are not sufficiently fortified to withstand insurgents’ attacks,” the analyst said. “That they are doing this regularly and getting away with it shows there is no adequate security in place even at the bases.”
“Every resource must be made available to fortify where soldiers are manning, even though many of them are forward operating bases,” Mr Ngwodo added. “Intelligence capabilities must be also be strengthened to anticipate things like this because the huge movement it takes for terrorists to carry out such attacks should have been detected.”
Hundreds of Nigerian troops have been killed and even more missing since Boko Haram resumed its latest campaign in July, fueling concerns amongst military leaders, and prompting an emergency reshuffling of commanders.
Worried about the rising cases of missing soldiers in Boko Haram attack, the chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, issued a warning to troops on the battlefront against fleeing from insurgents in August, threatening errant personnel with a tough prosecution.
The Defence Headquarters announced last week it had taken new delivery of military equipment, boasting of a tough time ahead for insurgents.
The military has said it recorded tremendous gains in its counterinsurgency operations over the past three years, especially after managing to confine the insurgents to the fringes of Nigerian territories.
This was against the previous years when the deadly Boko Haram terrorists held vast Nigerian lands across its North-east stronghold, occasionally spilling into North-west and North-central geopolitical zones.
Two attacks on Nigerian soldiers attached to Multinational Joint Task Force between November 5 and 6 left at least one soldier killed and 16 others missing, military sources said on Wednesday.
At least five soldiers were also wounded during the attack on a military camp in Kukawa village on November 5 and an improvised explosive device that went off on a moving military truck in Mallam Fatori on November 6. Both communities are in the northern fringes of Borno State, near the border with Niger Republic.
In the November 5 attack, the Boko Haram insurgents tried to overrun a military checkpoint manned by 101 Special Forces and 157 Battalion with five gun trucks around 5:40 p.m.
They managed to dislodge the troops and burned two armoured personnel carriers that were already in disrepair, and made away with one anti-aircraft gun and one light machine gun, military sources said.
The sources said the Boko Haram terrorists then proceeded to an abandoned secondary school nearby, where the MNJTF soldiers had been using as their base, and burned its administrative office and kitchen down.
The attack left one soldier wounded while 16 others were missing in action as of Wednesday night, sources said.
The insurgents fled after air support arrived. The Nigerian Air Force personnel pursued the terrorists with an attack helicopter, forcing them to withdraw into their enclaves.
Military sources said the Air Force is currently conducting an assessment of the damage, and would forward final findings on potential casualties to command headquarters afterwards.
The attack in Mallam Fatori involved troops of 119 Task Force Battalion who were moving back to their battalion headquarters in the border community when their vehicle hit a landmine planted by Boko Haram elements, military sources said while briefing PREMIUM TIMES on the aftermath of the incident.
One soldier was killed and four others were wounded in action in the attack, which occurred between Bosso, Niger Republic and Mallam Fatori, headquarters of Abadam Local Government Area of Borno State. It was not immediately clear whether the wounded have been taken to the hospital in Nigeria or Niger.
The Defence Headquarters announced last week it had taken new delivery of military equipment, boasting of a tough time ahead for insurgents.
The military has said it recorded tremendous gains in its counter-insurgency operations over the past three years, especially after managing to confine the insurgents to the fringes of Nigerian territories.
This was against the years before when the deadly Boko Haram terrorists held vast Nigerian lands across its North-east stronghold, occasionally spilling into North-west and North-central geopolitical zones.
Eight persons, including children, were confirmed killed Wednesday evening in an attack by Boko Haram gunmen on a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) gave the casualty figure in a statement confirming the attack, although eye-witnesses said at least a dozen people died.
The attack on Dalori IDP camp started at about 7p.m. and lasted two hours during which the attackers reportedly overpowered soldiers guarding the camp.
Dalori camp, located few kilometers outside Maiduguri, is considered one of the largest in the state.
Eye-witnesses who spoke to journalists in Maiduguri said they counted up to 12 corpses after the attack.
Solomon Adamu, an official of the Civilian-JTF deployed in the camp, said “a total of 12 persons were killed here and outside the camp.”
“At Gwazari-Kofa, one person was killed, at Dalori IDP Camp II, two persons were killed; and at Bulabulin a village near the camp, nine persons got killed,” he said.
He said the attackers came in seven pickup vans.
“They were about 100 in number and all of them were fully armed. We had to run for our lives.”
NEMA, however, in a statement confirming the attack, said only eight persons died.
An eyewitness informed PREMIUM TIMES via a text message that six persons were killed and two got drowned in a river while trying to escape. PREMIUM TIMES could not verify the case of drowning.
“Last night from 7.30 till 9.30 our camp was attacked,” said the source who, for safety reasons, would not want to be named in the media.
“We were so scared during the attack; lots of houses were burned; one man was killed and two other men drowned when they escaped.
“Villages near our camp were all burned. They also killed a family of five outside our camp.”
The source said soldiers guarding the camp could not save the situation.
“Most of the soldiers fled alongside we the IDPs and those leaving outside the camp.
“The General officer Commanding 7 Division, General Bulama Biu, came to the camp at 10p.m after the attack was over,” said the source.
Zonal coordinator of NEMA for North east, Bashir Garga, said in a statement he signed that ”six (6) people from Kofa village were killed as a result of suspected Boko Haram terrorists that attacked four villages in outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
“The attack occurred on Wednesday night at about 8.00 pm. Kofa, Mallumti, Ngomari, Gozari, villages which are close to Dalori IDP camp were affected.
“Many villagers fled to the Dalori IDP camp for safety which led to an attack on the camp vicinity which claimed the lives of two IDPs making a total of eight people dead
“The terrorists gained access to the area through a bush path behind the villages and came in four vehicles and some motorcycles. They ransacked the market in front of the IDP camp.
“Villagers who ran into the bush for safety have returned back to their homes while the Borno State Fire Service have contained the inferno. The injured have been treated in the camp clinic while serious cases were evacuated to hospitals in maiduguri. An assessment team is on site to provide relief assistance to those affected.”
Camp officials told PREMIUM TIMES that some other IDPs are yet to be accounted for at the time of filing this report.
“Some of our women who fled across the river are yet to return, even though we hear rumor that they were taken away by the Boko Haram gunmen.”
The military has not issued any official statement concerning the attack. But the GOC informed journalists on phone that the soldiers guarding the camp repelled the attack.
The Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa, visited the camp at about 3 p.m. to sympathise with the IDPs and residents.
Islamic extremists killed no fewer than 360 defenseless civilians, including 260 Christians and 100 Muslims in the country in the month of October 2018.
A report, released yesterday by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, was signed by its board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi and Head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Obianuju Igboeli.
The report showed that jihadists perpetrated the killings in the Middle Belt Region of the country, particularly in Kaduna, Plateau and Benue, as well as in Adamawa and Borno states.
It also lamented the response of the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai and the Nigerian Army to the killings, saying it was distasteful.
The breakdown of the over 360 deaths, revisited and evaluated by Intersociety, showed that no fewer than 135 Christians were killed in Kaduna State in October; specifically between October 18 and 21, 2018.
Over 53 Christians were killed in Jos, Plateau State in the past 30 days and not less than 30 (16 Christians and three Churches and 15 Muslims) in Lafia-Lamurde and Mamsirmi communities in Adamawa State on October 23, 2018.
The report also disclosed that in Benue State, no fewer than 14 Christians were killed in Agena and Agbaaye communities of Ukum and Okpokwu local government areas of the state.
In Borno State, along Maiduguri-Damboa Road and Molai Village in Jere Local Government Area, Boko Haram terrorists slaughtered 38 civilians, many of them Christians
“Therefore, with the loss of no fewer than 260 Christians in the past 30 days, the total number of defenseless Christians killed by herdsmen, jihadists and their collaborators in the Middle Belt in the past 10 months of 2018 has risen to at least 2,262,” it stated.
Meanwhile, the Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), has disclosed that at least 10 people are killed every month in Plateau, Nasarrawa, Benue and Kaduna states.
It also pointed out that over 200 people are being held at various security formations without trial, warning that the lingering ethnic crisis in some Northern states could snowball into a major national disaster that may affect the 2019 polls.
The National Working Group on Peace and Conflict Prevention (NWGPC) pioneered by JODER stated in its report yesterday that government and communities in Plateau, Nassaraw and Kaduna States were key to the resolution of the lingering crisis in the states.
It had submitted a comprehensive peace roadmap to governors of Kaduna, Plateau and Nassarawa states where ethnic conflicts had claimed several lives.
The report signed by Abukar Onalo, Chief Digifa Werenipre and Adewale Adeoye noted that the state governments and people were underestimating the crisis in Kaduna, Plateau and other Northern states.
Cover Photo:An injured victim of a female suicide bomber arrives in an ambulance for medical attention at a Maiduguri hospital in northeast Nigeria on August 15, 2017. Photo: The Guardian.
The Nigerian Army has confirmed the death of one soldier and severe injuries sustained by four others in yet another Boko Haram attack on a military base in Borno State Saturday.
The Army said in a statement on Facebook the tragedy occured when troops repelled attempts by Boko Haram insurgents to overrun a battalion in Gashigar, a Nigerian community near the border with Niger Republic.
Boko Haram fighters “were completely routed” when they stormed the 145 Battalion in Gashigar Saturday, the Army said. “They fled in disarray due to superior firepower by the gallant troops and support from the Nigerian Air Force.”
The Army did not immediately disclose the identity of the soldier that was killed in action during the attack, nor did it say how many suspected terrorists were gunned down by soldiers, promising to provide more details of the attack later.
The statement, however, disclosed that the wounded were immediately evacuated to Maiduguri for treatment using a Bell 412 helicopter.
The Nigerian Air Force confirmed the attack on Sunday afternoon, saying Boko Haram elements arrived in 13 gun trucks and made attempts to down military helicopters. Air Force spokesperson, Ibikunle Daramola, said the insurgents were engaged several times between Saturday night and Sunday morning, amidst attempts to drive them away from the general area.
Nigerian soldiers have repeatedly come under attack by Boko Haram in the North-east, with scores of soldiers being killed in action in the last three months. These attacks are recurring despite claims by the Nigerian government that it had defeated the insurgency.
The military has said it recorded tremendous gains over the past three years, especially for its success in confining the insurgents to the fringes of Nigerian territories, as against the years before when the deadly Islamists were holding vast Nigerian lands across its North-east stronghold.
Three killed, seven injured as gunmen open fire in Taraba cattle market.
At least three herders have been killed and seven others injured after gunmen opened fire in a market in Taraba State on Saturday, police and witnesses said.
The attack occurred at Mararraban Kunini, a major livestock trading community in Lau Local Government Area.
The police in Taraba told PREMIUM TIMES the killers are still at large as of Sunday afternoon.
The Mararraban Kunini Market was recently opened following an ethno-religious conflict that engulfed Mayo-Lope town, which was formerly home to the central cattle market. The violence forced most of the traders in Mayo-Lope to flee the community.
Witnesses who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the latest attack said the gunmen stormed the market at the peak of business Saturday afternoon.
“People were busy buying and selling cattle, sheep and goats and farm produce” when gunmen suddenly appeared and opened fire, a witness said.
“Three traders were killed instantly and 11 others injured as I am talking to you now,’’ Mallum Kawu, a cattle dealer who said he narrowly escaped the attack, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Josiah Bante, a used clothes trader, said people fled in different direction to escape the violence.
The attackers did not steal cows or any other merchandise at the market, indicating they only came to wreak havoc, Mr Bante said.
The police confirmed the attack on Sunday, with David Misal, an assistant superintendent of police, saying the police were informed of three deaths while seven persons sustained injuries.
No arrests have been made, but security measures in the area have been intensified to avoid further bloodshed, the police spokesperson said.
The attack followed an indiscriminate killing of cows in Taraba-Abbare town in the same local government area on Thursday.
At least 150 cows were killed during the attack, according to community leaders who are now demanding urgent intervention by the Nigerian military and other security agencies.
The attackers were said to be clad in military fatigues, a claim that security agencies have not disputed.
Dozens of cows that were injured in the attack were later taken to food markets in Jalingo, the state capital. Some herders reportedly took their injured cows to a market in Mayo-Belwa in the neighbouring Adamawa State.
‘’We want military authorities and sister security agencies to investigate the alleged involvement of the military in the attacks,” a community leader told PREMIUM TIMES.
The police also acknowledged the incident occurred, but said it was not reported to security agencies.
‘’No one came to us and forwarded his or her complaint on the matter but the state command had since deployed more police to area while the divisional police officer in charge of the area” had been directed to investigate and forward findings to the headquarters.
The Nigerian Army did not return requests for comments about the attacks and claims that perpetrators dressed as soldiers.
The Nigerian Army said it has discovered a shallow grave where a missing major general, Muhammed Alkali, was buried after he was killed.
The army said the body was later exhumed and reburied somewhere else by the killers, according to the information provided to it by some of the arrested suspects.
According to the army, the shallow grave was confirmed by four independent sources in the community and also by sniffer dogs.
A PREMIUM TIMES correspondent who visited the area of the shallow grave reports that there is a distance of one kilometre between the main road and the location of the grave.
Mr Alkali was the immediate past chief of administration of the Nigerian Army. He was declared missing on September 3 when he was traveling from Abuja to Bauchi State. He is believed to have been killed by his abductors.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the car of the missing general was found weeks ago in the community’s pond after it was drained.
A blood-stained T-shirt, a boxer short and a pair of shoes believed to belong to the general were found in the car.
Since the discovery of the car, there have been fears the military could attack the community in retaliation.
A day after the car was found, the army cordoned off the Dura Du community and arrested 30 suspects in connection with the suspected murder of the general.
Apart from the discovery of the missing car, two other vehicles were also recovered from the pond.
Following the arrest of the 30 suspects, residents of the community fled for fear of military action but the army pledged to conduct the search with respect for human rights.
On Friday, a major general, B. A. Akinruluyo, the General Officer Commanding, 3 Division, Rukuba Barracks, narrated how the shallow grave was discovered.
“Please note that four different sources not known to each other at various times took us to the opened shallow grave where the senior officer was earlier buried but subsequently removed,” he said.
“Furthermore, sniffer dogs that have been cultured with the personal effects of the senior officer led us to the same open shallow grave. That was the only grave we were led to by different people and sniffer dogs. We did not go to any other grave as the operation was carried out based on credible intelligence.
“Like I always say, the cordon and search operation is intelligence driven and that is why the operation has been conducted in line with international best practices and respect for human rights. This further explains why the (army) division did not clamp down on the entire community. Only the perpetrators are being targeted.
“At this point, let me reiterate that all the actors involved in this dastardly act who are still at large are known to us. All efforts are being made to get them arrested and be brought to justice as their photographs and personal details are with the relevant security agencies.
“The cordon and search operation conducted by own troops has really exposed the heinous crimes being committed by the few but fully supported and concealed by the entire community. I want to commend members of the public for their cooperation and still solicit for anyone with credible information on where the senior officer was reburied. It is the civic responsibility of the Dura-Du community to produce the corpse of the deceased senior officer and those who were involved in the killing of the senior officer.
“Finally, the division also wishes to emphasise its adherence to the principles and respect of human rights in the discharge of its constitutional roles. It further calls on everyone within its area of responsibility to remain vigilant and report any suspected breach of the peace to security agencies,” the major general said.
SOURCE: Premium Times
Boko Haram jihadists have killed two people in an attack on a village in northeast Nigeria near the town of Chibok, residents and a militia official told AFP Tuesday.
The jihadists believed to be loyal to Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau, late Monday raided Mifah, seven kilometres from Chibok, where militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in 2014.
Boko Haram’s nine-year conflict has killed an estimated 27,000 people and displaced two million, creating a humanitarian crisis and spilling into Nigeria’s northern neighbours.
“They killed two people and looted the village before setting it on fire,” said David Bitrus, a civilian militia member fighting alongside the army, after the Mifah attack.
“The village has been reduced to ashes. Six people were injured in the attack,” he said.
The attack, which happened around 8 pm (1900 GMT), forced residents of the village to flee to Chibok.
“The gunmen came in a truck and on several motorcycles and began shooting in the village,” said Mifah resident Manasseh Amos.
“They took all our food and livestock and burnt the village. We have nothing left,” Amos said.
Troops were stationed in Chibok since the schoolgirls were abducted four years ago, but violent Boko Haram raids have continued in communities across Nigeria’s remote northeast.
Chibok lies close to Boko Haram’s Sambisa forest enclave from where the jihadists launch attacks on nearby villages.
In recent days Boko Haram militants have increasingly attacked civilian targets in the region.
On Saturday, the militants burnt down three neighbouring villages near the state capital Maiduguri in an overnight raid that left two people dead.
The raid came hours after the jihadists hacked to death 12 farmers working in their nearby fields.
On Thursday, Boko Haram fighters looted and burnt Kalli village near the town of Damboa after fighting off soldiers protecting it, according to local officials.
Cover Photo; Abubakar Shekau. Photo; The Guardian.
Nigeria is committed to ending attacks by militant Islamists in the north-east of the country and making the region “safe for all”, President Muhammadu Buhari has said in his speech marking the 58th anniversary of independence from British rule.
He said that it was “a day of celebration and solemn reflection”.
He paid tribute to the victims of militant group Boko Haram and praised the armed forces for “working under the most difficult conditions”.
“We know that the goals of the Boko Haram terrorists include capturing territories, destroying our democracy and denying our children the right to education. We will not allow them to succeed,” he vowed.
Mr Buhari, who is seeking re-election next year, also spoke of how his administration is tackling environmental pollution, corruption, and the economic crisis.
“Developing a thriving democracy is not an easy task. There can be no quick fixes or short cuts. These are the most important lessons that we have learnt in our 58 years as an independent nation,” he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the “tragic killing” of Khorsa in a statement released on Monday.
“We are devastated by the murder of our colleague Saifura,” said Eloi Fillion, the head of the ICRC delegation in Abuja.
The terrorist group also threatened to kill Hauwa Liman and Alice Ngaddah who were abducted alongside Khorsa in March 2018, as well as Leah Sharibu, the remaining Dapchi schoolgirl in Boko Haram captivity.
Leah, who has been in captivity for over 200 days, is one of the 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in Dapchi, Yobe State, by Boko Haram. But she was held back when others were released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
“The girls that returned said Leah said she will not deny Christ or turn to be a Muslim,” Leah’s father, Nathan said in an Interview.
The insurgents, however, claimed that they had contacted the government over the captives but did not get any response.
“We contacted the government through writing and also sent audio messages but the government has ignored us. So, here is a message of blood,” said a spokesman of the group who did not give his name.
This may be connected to as the sect late August released a 35-second online audio of Sharibu pleading for an urgent intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari to facilitate her rescue.
“I am Leah Sharibu… I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation”.
The recorded audio came months after the Nigerian government said negotiations for the rescue of the lone Christian girl were still ongoing.
The government admitted, however, that efforts to secure her release by the insurgents had been tortuous and complicated.
“The other nurse and midwife will be executed in a similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu,” the sect threatened.
This latest threat may be part of the indications, as predicted by Ahmad Salkida, a journalist with the knowledge of Boko Haram insurgency and Lake Chad crisis, that the sect may be on the verge of launching a large-scale attack in northeast Nigeria.
“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.
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.
This warning is coming after 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 the 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.
However, while reacting to the murder and the threats the Nigerian Government pledged its commitment to rescuing all captives.
“The government of Nigeria strongly condemns this reprehensible and inhuman act. No religion permits the killing of the innocent,” Garba Shehu, his senior special assistant on media and publicity said on Monday.
The president, therefore, appealed to Nigeria’s international partners and everyone with an influence on the sect to prevail on it “to stop these acts of extreme barbarism.”
Cover Photo: Book Haram. Photo: BBC.
The militant Islamic State (IS) group says its fighters carried out the attack in north-eastern Nigeria’s Gudumbali town on Friday night.
The militants battled government troops for hours in the town.
Shortly after this claim, an IS-affiliated news agency, Amaq, published a video of what it said was an attack on the town of Zari, also in Borno State, in which at least 30 soldiers were killed on 30 August.
This coincides with the launch of the Nigerian Air Force’s Operation Thunder Strike Two against what it describes as “remnants of the insurgents”.
IS has an affiliate in Nigeria – the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (Iswap), which is a faction within the Boko Haram group.
There seems to be a resurgence of attacks by Iswap after Amaq admitted in July that the militants had lost control of towns to the military. And the intensity of military operations implies a recognition of the threat they pose.
Cover photo: Militant Islamists have waged an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009
Attack blamed on Islamic State in West Africa another blow to efforts to defeat insurgency ahead of presidential election.
Islamist militants have killed up to 30 soldiers in an attack on a military base in north-east Nigeria in one of the biggest attacks of its kind this year.
Security sources said on Saturday the attack on Thursday by suspected members of Islamic State in West Africa was on a base in Zari village in the north of Borno State.
In 2016 ISWA split from Boko Haram, the jihadist group that has killed more than 30,000 people in the region since 2009, when it launched an insurgency to create an Islamic caliphate.
The Zari attack highlights the challenge to secure the north-east, months ahead of a February election in which security looks set to be a campaign issue.
“The battle lasted for about two hours and our colleagues fought them, but things became bad before the fighter jets arrived. We lost about 30 of our soldiers and about 10 were wounded,” said a military source who did not want to be named.
Another source, who also did not want to be named, said 20 to 30 troops had been killed in a surprise attack. Details only emerged days later because it occurred in a remote area near the border with Niger.
The attack, in the Guzamala local government area of Borno, is the latest blow to Nigeria’s efforts to defeat insurgencies by Boko Haram and ISWA.
Earlier this week Nigerian government officials ordered thousands of displaced people to return to Guzamala, an area considered by aid agencies to be unsafe, as pressure mounts to show progress in the war against the insurgents ahead of the presidential election.
The president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, won the 2015 election after vowing to crush Islamist militants. He plans to seek a second term in February.
In July the fourth commander in 14 months was named to lead the fight against the militants after a number of embarrassing defeats, despite the government having said since late 2015 that the Islamists in the region had been defeated.
In mid-July 20 Nigerian soldiers went missing following a clash with militants in the Bama area of Borno. Military sources say the troops are feared dead.
Cover photo: A Nigerian army convoy in Borno State, where up to 30 soldiers were killed by Islamists. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK
The UK has signed a security and defence pact with Nigeria that would help President Muhammadu Buhari’s adminstration fight Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The announcement was made during Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit.
A statement says the UK “will expand its provision of equipment and training for the Nigerian military to help them protect themselves from the threat of improvised explosive devices used by terrorists”.
The Boko Haram insurgency, which started in 2009, has led to the deaths of over 20,000 people, with almost two million displaced from their homes in the north-east of the country.
Prime Minister May said:
“We are determined to work side-by-side with Nigeria to help them fight terrorism, reduce conflict, and lay the foundations for the future stability and prosperity that will benefit us all.”
The deal also involves a new $16m (£13m) programme to educate 100,000 children whose learning has been disrupted by the fighting.
The programme will provide school equipment, teacher training and safe places to learn.
The UK will also help with counter terrorism tactics that will help Nigeria disrupt the recruitment of militants.
Cover photo: UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Nigeria today for her second leg of her three day trip in Africa. Photo: PA
Emergency officials in Nigeria say five suicide bombers have detonated their explosives in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, killing themselves and hurting several people.
This is the first suicide bomb attack in the city in nearly two months.
Residents say several loud explosions were heard around the city overnight.
Officials say three female and two male suicide bombers targeted Kaleri district where there are many residential buildings and a market.
One of the attackers blew herself up at the entrance of a residential building.
They killed themslves and injured at least three civilians, police say.
No group has said it carried out the attacks but Boko Haram insurgents are known to operate in the region.
Two suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers on Sunday night sneaked into a neighbourhood of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, to carry out coordinated attacks that eventually claimed only their own lives, officials and witnesses said.
The blasts however injured three other innocent residents.
Twin deafening explosions, a first of its kind to be heard by residents in recent times, echoed all over Maiduguri at about 7pm causing residents to panic.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter in the city gathered that the twin blast came from Kalari, a crowded Maiduguri suburb located behind the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
Witnesses said the suicide bombers were a male and female teenagers who walked to one of the houses near Kalari market and knocked at the gate, pretending to be visitors.
“When the owner of the house opened the gate, the teenage girl detonated the bomb she was wearing on her body but it only killed her and injured three other persons,” Biliya Kabiru, a resident, said.
“The male suicide bomber, was probably scared as he also detonated his suicide vest immediately, but at a spot where no one was affected but only himself.”
The spokesperson of the Civilian-JTF, Danbatta Bello, confirmed the incident to PREMIUM TIMES via telephone interview.
“It was a sad incident, but we thank God none of the innocent residents lost their lives except the suicide bombers themselves,” he said.
“They were two; a male and a female. But the explosions they caused only injured three persons in the neighbourhood who are currently receiving treatment in hospital,” he said.
Kaleri is one of the locations within Maiduguri that was a den for Boko Haram terrorists.
Local intelligence officials believe the area still harbours a large number of members of the extremist sect and their passive supporters.
It was in the same Kalari that the recent arrest of 22 Boko Haram members.
The police said eight of them confessed they participated in the 2014 unresolved abduction of Chibok schoolgirls.
SOURCE: Premium Times
A new report on the violence between herders and farmers in Nigeria says that the conflict has now claimed six times more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency.
The International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organisation working to prevent war, says more than 1,300 people have been killed in clashes in Nigeria’s middle belt since January and 300,000 have been displaced.
The report says that the conflict stems from wider issues, including climate change and the expansion of farmland.
But it says the escalation of violence in 2018 is due to the growing number of ethnic militias with illegal weapons. It also blames the failure of the government to prosecute perpetrators, and the introduction of anti-grazing laws, widely opposed by herders.
The report also warns that the conflict has dangerous religious and ethnic dimensions because the herders are mainly Muslim Fulanis and the farmers tend to be Christians.
News agencies say four Cameroonian soldiers have been arrested for their involvement in a disturbing video which has caused outrage on social media.
In the clip men wearing military fatigues shoot two women, including one with a baby on her back, and a little girl.
They are heard accusing the victims of being connected to the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
Both the UK and the US have expressed concern over the video and have called for those involved to be held accountable for their actions.
Details of the arrests are still unclear, but a spokesperson for the government denies they took place. Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told the BBC that the government did not yet know the origins of the video.
He added that there were two versions of the clip: one where soldiers were wearing Cameroonian uniforms, and another where they appeared to be wearing Malian ones.
The Borno state police command on Wednesday paraded eight suspected Boko Haram members and their accomplices it said were responsible for the kidnap of Chibok schoolgirls four years ago.
Another 14 suspects also paraded were responsible for various suicide attacks carried out by teenage girls, the police said.
This was disclosed at a press conference by the Borno police command at the force headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno state capital.
Over 270 Chibok girls were abducted from their school dormitory in 2014. The kidnapping sparked global outrage.
More than 100 of the schoolgirls are still being held by Boko Haram.
A court in Nigeria has jailed 113 people for links with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram as part of a series of mass trials of thousands of suspects.
Judges at the civilian court which has been set up in a military facility in central Nigeria’s Niger state gave them sentences of between 20 and 30 years for terror-related offences.
One of those convicted took part in an attack on a military barracks from where military vehicles were stolen and used to abduct more than 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in 2014.
More than 200 others have already been jailed whilst 500 were found not guilty.
Female suicide bombers, suspected to be from Boko Haram, killed at least three people during an attack in north-east Nigeria.
The two bombers detonated their explosives inside a house and close to a mosque in the Mashamari area of Konduga, news agency AFP reports.
“One of them detonated near a mosque while residents were preparing for the evening prayers and moments later the second one detonated inside a house,” Bello Danbatta, chief security officer of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), told AFP.
Seven others were injured, according to Mr Danbatta.
But Ibrahim Liman, part of a civilian militia force helping the military against Boko Haram, said two more victims died en-route to a Maiduguri hospital, potentially raising the death toll to five.
This comes weeks after a male bomber killed five militia members at a checkpoint outside Konduga.
Boko Haran have been using mostly women and girls and suicide bombers, targeting mosques, markets, schools and other crowded places.
By Kuni Tyessi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that since 2013, more than 1,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in the North-eastern part of Nigeria, including 276 girls taken from their secondary school in the town of Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
In a statement signed by its communication specialist, Eva Hinds, the UNICEF disclosed that four years on from that tragic incident, more than 100 of the ‘Chibok girls’ are yet to be returned to their families as the UN children’s agency continues to call for their release.
In the statement, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mohammed Malick Fall, said since the conflict started in the North-eastern Nigeria nearly nine years ago, at least 2,295 teachers have been killed and more than 1,400 schools have been destroyed, leaving most of these schools closed because of extensive damage or ongoing insecurity.
He said: “The four-year anniversary of the Chibok abduction reminds us that children in the North-east region continue to come under attack at a shocking scale. They are consistently targeted and exposed to brutal violence in their homes, schools and public places.
“These repeated attacks against children in schools are unconscionable. Children have the right to education and protection, and the classroom must be a place where they are safe from harm.
“The recent attack on a school in Dapchi, Yobe State, in which five girls lost their lives is just the latest indication that there are few safe spaces left for children in the Northeast. Not even schools are spared from violence.”
The statement further stated that Nigerian authorities have made a commitment to make schools safer and more resilient to attack, and UNICEF vowed to stand with them to implement the Safe Schools Declaration, by which Nigeria commits to protecting schools and universities from violence and military use during armed conflict.
It added that UNICEF is appealing for an end to attacks on schools and all grave violations of children’s rights.
A suicide explosion in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, has caused the death of two people.
The police spokesperson in Borno, Joseph Kwaji, said the two victims were the girls who wore the explosives. He said nine other residents sustained injuries.
He said the girls wore suicide vests hidden under their garments and tried to sneak into Maiduguri late on Wednesday.
Vigilant security personnel who spotted the girls as they advanced towards a suburb of the city very close to the Giwa military barracks, ordered them to stop. But the defiant girls kept moving until they detonated their explosives.
The two of them died instantly, while nine residents of the neighbourhood sustained injuries from the shrapnel from the blasts.
“On 14/03/2018 at about 20:25 hours, two female suicide bombers in an attempt to infiltrate into Alikaramanti area, after Giwa Barracks, were intercepted by security operatives on duty. The two female suicide bombers thereby hurriedly detonated the IED strapped to their bodies killing themselves and injuring nine others,” the spokesperson said.
“Explosives Ordnance Department (EOD) have rendered area safe, while corpses and injured victims have been evacuated to the hospital. Normalcy has since been restored in the area.”
SOURCE: Premium Times
By Latifat Opoola
The #BringBackOurGirls movement has served the Federal Government a 7-day notice or it will commence a legal action for the “criminal negligence which enabled the abduction of #Dapchigirls”.
The group’s lawyer, Femi Falana stated this at a press conference on Tuesday, during its march to the villa to demand for the rescue of all citizens abducted by insurgents in the country.
Falana said the group was going to court to not only demand for the rescue of the abducted girls but to demand for sanctions of those responsible for the students’ safety.
“Having regards to the circumstances of the development in that part of the country it is intolerable that the same manner of abduction took place. Are we being told that there was no security for those schools in the northeast region?’ he queried.
“We are not just going to court to demand for the rescue of the girls; we are also going to demand for sanction because once you do not punish impunity, you are going to have criminality happen all over the place” he said.
The group had earlier issued a statement where it poses 14 questions relating to the abduction of the girls, demanding swift response from FG.
The group which accused the FG of incompetence with the abduction queried why the military was withdrawn from Dapchi, on whose account and to whom did they hand over?
It also wondered how terrorists carried out their activity for hours unchallenged by FG forces wondering if there was connivance between the abductors and those in the military.
“Now we are being told that a committee has been set up by the same people, it can only be to cover up. So if you want to challenge what has been done by now we expect the government to have fired those who are responsible and those 14 questions are very genuine. Particularly, who withdrew the forces on ground? To who was security handed over to and if nobody can provide answers, then people have to sanctions. So we are not just going to court to demand for the search for the girls we are also going to demand for sanctions” Falana added.
SOURCE: Daily Trust (Abuja)
President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria prefers to have schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok and Dapchi back alive, and that is why it has chosen negotiation, rather than military option.
The President stated this when he received the American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, in audience at State House, Abuja, on Monday.
He said Nigeria was working in concert with international organizations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.
“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” the President said.
He thanked America for assistance rendered in the fight against insurgency, noting that “Nigerian forces are good, but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”
President Buhari promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, adding that he would go to Yobe, where Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted, later this week.
He said the visit would be part of his “condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events.”
The President pledged free and fair polls in 2019, recalling that the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, had visited before the 2015 polls, “and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did.”
In his remarks, the visiting U. S. top diplomat said Nigeria was a very important country to the U.S.
“You have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019,” he added.
Tillerson, who later briefed newsmen alongside the Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, , said the American government would assist Nigeria with latest security equipment and intelligence sharing in its efforts toward the safe return of the abducted schoolgirls in Yobe and Borno.
According to him, the U.S. government will also offer special training for security personnel to enable them engage in special operations towards the rescue of the girls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists.
He expressed the hope that both the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls would return home safely.
“First we respect the responsibilities of the government of Nigeria. But the way we support is in providing them capability, capacity in handling equipment, training, and personnel for special operations and sharing of intelligence to ensure that they have all the information available for the rescue of the girls.
School staff and locals describe events leading to the kidnapping of the boarding school girls in north-east Nigeria.
Evening was falling and hundreds of students were preparing to break the fast observed every Monday at the girls’ boarding school in the small Nigerian town of Dapchi.
Watching them get ready to eat reminded Usman Mohammed, a school security guard, that it was time for his evening prayers. It was a school night like any other. Until suddenly it wasn’t.
“The food had just been served when we started hearing gunshots,” he said. He rushed to see what was happening. Girls were running in all directions. He could see strange men in army uniforms, carrying weapons. There were vehicles painted in military colours, with machine guns mounted on their roofs. But if you looked closer, you saw that “Allah is great” had been inscribed in Arabic on their bonnets.
The men were in fact members of Boko Haram, the violent group that calls itself Islamic while raping, murdering and kidnapping on a vast scale in north-east Nigeria. Some of the Dapchi girls and their families had heard of the Chibok girls –276 schoolchildren abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 to global condemnation – but they were not expecting the same to happen to them. Dapchi is in Yobe, another state badly affected by Boko Haram, but the town had never been attacked before, and since Chibok, Nigeria had elected a new government, one that repeatedly claims that Boko Haram is beaten, decimated and on the run.
Officials have contradicted each other about the 19 February attack and in some cases released outright untruths, however the Guardian has pieced together what happened through interviews with the girls who escaped, their families, staff at the school, and Dapchi residents who witnessed the attack.
Sitting outside the market, Mohammadu Mdada, a local vigilante, watched as two cars pulled up at about 6pm. Men with rifles got out and asked some startled tricycle taxi drivers the locations of soldiers, the hospital and the school. Duly directed, nine more cars sped after the men, fanning out towards the three targets. A wave of motorcycles followed. Motorcycles have been banned across the region, and that was how Mdada knew it was Boko Haram.
At the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Hafsat Abdullahi, 18, had just got out of the bath after fasting all day. She hadn’t even taken a sip of water when she heard the shots ring out.
Hafsat and her friends assumed the sound was the school’s dodgy electricity transformer, but changed their minds when they saw military men. “They said: ‘Come, let us help you, we are soldiers.’ We thought they really were. A lot of the students just jumped into their trucks.”
Hafsat didn’t see her, but one of those girls was Fatima, her little sister.
A lone dormitory porter seemed to realise what was happening, said Hafsat. “He was shouting to all of us: ‘Don’t get into those vehicles!’ But the girls just kept jumping in. Then [the porter] turned round and drove some of us towards the fence. We jumped over it and headed into the bush.”
Hafsat and three of her schoolmates bent down and sprinted away from the school, with bullets flying around their ears. “Allah helped us. None of the bullets hit any of us,” she said. Hundreds of girls hid out in the open that night.
With 110 girls loaded into their trucks, Boko Haram drove out through the school gates.
They went back past the vigilantes, who could do nothing, having only one musket between them. “The girls were shouting and crying, ‘Please help us! Save us’,” Mdada said. “The Boko Haram men had whips in their hands, flogging the girls. They said: ‘Keep quiet, you stupid things.’”
While Habiba was being lifted into the kidnappers’ truck, her father was roasting meat at his butcher’s shop when people started sprinting past, followed by strange cars. “I knew it was them and that this was trouble,” Mainama Jakana said.
He heard gunfire coming from the school and worried about his daughter Habiba, headed in that direction. But before he could get there, Jakana met the convoy loaded with captives.
“I followed one of the trucks carrying them,” he said. “I could hear the girls crying in the back of the truck, so I called out to the men. I pleaded with them to let my daughter go. I said she was not feeling well and she was a cripple. They told me to go back home. I kept on chasing the truck until it turned into the dusty road into the forest.”
There had been warnings. Four hours before, the vigilantes got a call from their friends in Guma, a village 35km away, to say that people dressed in military fatigues were heading their way. Then they got a call from another nearby village, Turma. They were too scared of the police to report it.
“We were afraid that if, in fact, they didn’t come to Dapchi, or they turned out not to be Boko Haram, then we might be in trouble,” said Mdada. “You know the Nigerian police.”
According to other villagers, the district police officer left town suddenly that morning without telling his men; something they saw as highly suspicious. The military, meanwhile, was conspicuous by its absence at the school.
“There was not a single soldier around, none,” said Mohammed, the school security guard. “I don’t know where the soldiers went.”
Few lessons appear to have been learned from the abduction of the Chibok girls, who were taken when Boko Haram was run by Abubakar Shekau. Since then, Islamic State have named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its new leader, and the group have split. Although it is not known which faction did the kidnapping, it was doubtless attracted by the prospect of ransoms like those paid for the release of some of the Chibok girls.
The next day in Dapchi, as girls trickled back from the bush, their parents and the school started to figure out who had been kidnapped.
Almost immediately, the state government said many of the girls had been “rescued by gallant officers”. But the parents’ hopes were soon dashed; the governor arrived and told them no girls had been rescued after all.
For the abducted girls’ families, there is little to do but wait. “We came home and started praying day and night. That is how it has been since then,” said Jummei, the morther of Hafsat and Fatima. “We implore the world to pray for us.”
Survivors tell of being forcibly prepared for ‘suicide missions’, henna on their hands and bombs around their waists.
When Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 17-year-old Nadia and took her to their camp, their commander noticed her straight away. She was squatting with dozens of other abducted women in front of him, listening to his lecture.
When, a few minutes later, the commander ordered his men to take Nadia to his house, she asked: “Why only me?” But she went with the men and waited.
The commander, whose name she never learned, “was dirty, ugly, dark-skinned and had a beard. He had a lot of hair on his head like a madman,” Nadia remembered. He looked mean. And he wanted her as a second wife.
Three months later, Nadia woke up one morning to find her body strapped with explosives. She had been drugged the night before. The commander’s men pushed her on to a motorbike, and dropped her and two others near Gamboro, a town in Borno, the Nigerian state hit worst by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The mission they had been given: to blow themselves up in as big a crowd as they could find.
They gather all the women and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’
Boko Haram, the terrorist group best known for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in the middle of the night three years ago, has been under heavy attack from the Nigerian military in recent months.
But as their longed-for “caliphate” across north-eastern Nigeria has shrunk, the number of bomb attacks has increased, with the insurgents increasingly sending the women and children they have abducted to blow themselves up.
The week before Nadia was abducted, Boko Haram had attacked her village. Hiding behind her house, she had listened as they searched for her father, screamed at her mother for trying to hide him, and finally found and shot him.
When the commander announced to Nadia that he was making her his concubine, she was told she was one of the “lucky few” to be selected. But terrified as she was, Nadia had no intention of going along with it.
“He came that night and tried to rape me,” she said, her diamante earrings glinting through her pale blue hijab. “We wrestled seriously. I thought, this is a life-or-death situation, he probably has an STD which would kill me anyway, so I might as well die honourably. I used all my strength to fight him, and he was so angry when he couldn’t succeed in raping me. In the morning he went out and called his boys, and told them to take me out and flog me.”
After more death threats and another rape attempt, he tried a different tack: talking to her, trying to persuade her to accept the marriage. But after three months of cajoling, he had had enough, and decided to get rid of her.
That was how Nadia found herself approaching a checkpoint run by the civilian joint taskforce (CJTF), a paramilitary group helping fight Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, trying to keep her arms out from her sides and not to swing them, to avoid accidentally detonating the bomb strapped to her waist.
When the men at the checkpoint saw the three women approaching, they shouted at them to stop. The women had prepared for this moment – in the minutes after their captors had left them, they had agreed to try to hand themselves in.
“We stopped. We shouted: ‘We’re carrying bombs, we were forced to,’ and we lifted up our veils and showed them the belts,” she said.
They were fortunate: no gun was raised to shoot them. The men called the military and after a 40-minute wait, standing still under a tree, soldiers came and removed the bombs from their bodies.
“I was so happy; we were smiling and laughing,” Nadia said. “We had survived.”
Many do not survive: according to figures collated by the Long War Journal, 154 bombers have died in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad since 2014, and this is a conservative estimate, as many attacks go unreported in the media.
When preparing someone for a “suicide” mission, Boko Haram members treat the bomber as if they are already dead, preparing the body as if for their own funeral.
“What they normally do is to dress you very beautifully, and put henna on your hands,” said Aisha, who was “married” to Boko Haram’s fourth-in-command and recently escaped. She saw many women and children recruited and sent on such missions.
This happened to Fatima, now 20, before she was sent to blow herself up in 2015. “They tie your hair back to prepare you for death,” she said, her voice quiet as she removed her red headscarf to show how her hair was braided off her face, as is the custom in funeral rites.
Fatima was raped every night by several different men for eight months, and is still terrified that somehow Boko Haram will find her and kidnap her again. By the time she was chosen for a bombing mission, she was so frightened that she could not speak, and stayed silent throughout the preparations.
“I was so afraid. I didn’t know what they meant. I’d never heard of anyone blowing themselves up. They told us we should go into a crowd and hit here,” she said, touching her hip. “Nobody told us what [the vest] was, but I knew it wasn’t something good. I didn’t look at it.”
She was dropped near Kukara, the target her captors had chosen for her, but she never considered going through with what she had been instructed to do.
“I went up to some soldiers and said: ‘I’m carrying something round my waist,’” she said. “They raised my veil and when they saw it they all jumped back. One said: ‘It’s a bomb!’ I was terrified, I was crying, but they told me not to move.”
Like Nadia, Fatima was believed by the soldiers. The bomb was removed, she was put through a rehabilitation process for three months, and is now living with her mother and sister. However, fearful of the heavy stigma that comes with having lived under Boko Haram, she has told them a sanitised version of her experiences during the abduction. (The names of all the women in this article have been changed.)
Nadia and Fatima were sent on their aborted missions in 2015. At that time, Boko Haram tried to hide the fact they were forcing people to blow themselves up from their other prisoners, afraid they would attempt to run away, according to Aisha, who observed how things changed over her three years in captivity. Now, she said, they have become completely open about it.
“They preach that if you go to [the state capital] Maiduguri and kill people, you will go to paradise without question,” she said. “They have a lot of ways to persuade them. They say: ‘Don’t consider them Muslim brothers and sisters any more – just go and kill them.’
“They gather all the women in one area and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’ Everyone raises her hand. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go now?’ Some raise their hands, so they take them and train them in suicide bombing. If nobody raises her hand, they say: ‘God created you, fed you, did everything for you, and this is how you reward him for all this?’ They make sure they get at least one person.
“It doesn’t take long to train them. They either tell you to hold the bomb or they strap it on to your body, round your waist or inside your bra. They tell you to go anywhere where there are a lot of men. They say: ‘Pretend you have stomach pain and fall on the ground. When people gather round you, press the button.’
Aisha saw how they recruited children as young as five for the missions.
“They say: ‘Who wants to go and see their mother in paradise? If you want to see her, that’s where she is.’ The children accept it easily, because they don’t know how dangerous it is. They tell them they won’t feel any pain even if their body is destroyed. I heard them saying that to the children in my camp.”
More and more children are being used in such missions: according to figures collected by Unicef, 27 were killed while wearing bombs in north-eastern Nigeria in the first three months of 2017, a sharp rise from 2016, when 30 were killed in the whole year.
It is the job of Bamussa Bashir, chair of a Maiduguri branch of the CJTF, to ensure that some of his 102 members are always guarding their area of the city, looking out for strangers who could be Boko Haram members or bombers. Women, and especially young girls, are increasingly being regarded with suspicion in Maiduguri.
In February Bashir, a quiet, serious-looking 23-year-old, was in a Maiduguri market, full of people buying beancake and grilled meat, when two girls got out of a car. A young man he didn’t know, buying credit for his phone, said to Bashir: “I don’t trust those girls.”
One of the girls hailed a tuk-tuk and zoomed off. The other started walking towards the market stalls. Bashir jumped up, wondering what to do, and was amazed to see the young man he had just been talking to head straight for the girl and put his arms around her.
“He grabbed her, trying to drag her away from the crowd. Then the bomb exploded.” As well as the young man and the girl, seven others died in the explosion, but the death toll could have been higher.
The hugging technique – when someone grabs a suspected attacker and uses their own body as a shield so fewer people around them die – is one of the only things locals can think to do in the face of the bomb attacks.
“People started doing it in one area, then another – it spread,” said Bashir, adding that he was ready to do it himself if it meant risking his life to reduce casualties.
“I know what death means. I’ve seen my relatives die and they have not come back. My brother was killed by Boko Haram two years ago. That’s part of the reason I do what I do, but what I really want is peace.”
Dozens of girls abducted from their school by fighters from the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram may still be unaccounted for, in a chilling repetition of the notorious 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok girls.
Heavily armed insurgents attacked the village of Dapchi on Monday evening in camouflaged trucks, according to witnesses, heading directly for the school and shooting as they went, scattering pupils and teachers.
Boko Haram attacks Dapchi, fear students may have been abducted
It is unclear whether or not the military subsequently staged a rescue mission, and accounts of the girls’ whereabouts by officials and family members vary wildly.
Many rescued, many not found: Not sure
Several parents and a government official told Reuters on Wednesday that the Nigerian military rescued 76 schoolgirls and recovered the bodies of two that were killed, leaving 13 missing, but around the same time, the local government of Yobe state, where the incident took place, released a statement saying 50 remained unaccounted for.
On Thursday, however, Reuters reported that the governor of Yobe had told residents of Dapchi that no missing girls had been rescued, according to four of those who heard the official speak. Meanwhile a parent from the school told the Associated Press that a list had been compiled of 101 missing children.
“I have directed the military and police to mobilise immediately to ensure that all the missing girls … are found,” Muhammadu Buhari posted on Wednesday night, two days after the attack. “I share the anguish of all the parents and guardians of the girls that remain unaccounted for.”
Nigerian govt not sure of true situation
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday said the Nigerian government would need more time to assess the situation around the community where some schoolgirls were reportedly kidnapped in Yobe State on Monday.
“On the issue of the number of missing girls, we cannot give what we are not sure of, until we hear from their parents, we cannot say this is the number,” Mr. Mohammed told reporters shortly after he arrived at Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Thursday afternoon. “Give us a few more time please”.
Mr. Mohammed was amongst the three ministers that President Muhammadu Buhari asked on Wednesday to embark on an immediate fact-finding missionto the state.
Mr. Mohammed’s comments that the Buhari administration cannot immediately give any details about the situation came a day after the state government said some of the kidnapped girls have been rescued and handed over to the Nigerian Army.
But that account now seems to be in dispute, as the Defence Headquarters said the alleged rescue could not be confirmed.
“We cannot confirm” the statement by Yobe State that some of the girls have been rescued, Defence spokesperson, John Agim, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning.
Similarly, a federal lawmaker who represents the community said the report that girls were kidnapped was untrue.
“The military did not rescue any girls yesterday as being reported in the media,” Goni Bukar, the lawmaker representing Bursari/Geidam/Yunusari federal constituency, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Thursday afternoon.
“I am currently speaking with you from the school and I stand here with the governor and other top military officials, I can tell you that no girls were rescued,” he added. “We have only been able to locate some girls in one or two batches at different places.”
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter arrived in Dapchi, about 100 kilometres from Damaturu, the state capital, Thursday afternoon.
Mr. Mohammed arrived at the community with Khadijat Bukar-Ibrahim, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, was on ground to receive the team. The Theatre Commander, Operations Lafiya Dole, Rogers Nicholas, a major-general, was also on the scene.
The minister and his entourage were briefed by the governor and the General Officer Commanding 3 Division, Damaturu.
Shortly after the briefing, Mr. Mohammed told reporters that he was delegated by the president to visit the attacked community and commiserate with the victims.
He said his delegation which also includes a representative of the minister of defence, was also to find out the true situation about the missing schoolgirls.
On the issue of the missing students, the minister said it is still too early to determine their whereabouts.
“We are still monitoring the situation and what I want people to understand is that since two days ago some of the students who fled to neighbouring towns and communities had returned and more have been returning.
“When we arrived here we have been briefed by the governor and the GOC about the situation of the students. We know there are few students who are yet accounted for, but we don’t want to manufacture stories on this issue. But give us few days, we will be able to tell you exactly the real situation of things.
“But you can see response of the military, the response of the state government is quite commendable. Since four days now we have been following the efforts being made to arrest the situation,” he said.
He lampooned the Boko Haram and said the sect only attacked the school because it is in its dying days and craving media attention.
“But we must understand that these are they dying days of the Boko Haram and what they intend to do is to embarrass the government because they have been degraded, they have been pushed out of Sambisa forest.
“They have been starved out of oxygen and the oxygen they feed on is publicity so that they can grab the world’s attention. But I can assure you that with the determination of our gallant military, the days of Boko Haram are numbered.”
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Guardian, UK/Premium Times/Reuters
According to multiple sources, Boko Haram attacked Dapchi, a remote town in Yobe state North East Nigeria, killing at least 3 persons and destroying houses.
However, a military source has confirmed that though the attack may be unsuccessful, but the terrorists are fleeing the town with some civilians, while their Nigeria air force are using airstrikes to flush them out into the bush.
Affirmative, #BokoHaram did launched an unsuccessful raid on Dapchi town in Yobe.
However, there was no abduction of Students. The terrorists may right now be fleeing with other civilians but not students.
There is ongoing Helicopter Airstrikes at the location https://t.co/mPfBDUkAfX
— Edward (@DonKlericuzio) February 19, 2018
Meanwhile, reports had it there the Boko Haram insurgents during the attack abducted number of secondary school girls from the Government Girls School, Dapchi, but other sources have taken to social media to report that there is not abduction and that all the students of the college have been accounted for and confirmed safe.
All students of the All Female High School in Dapchi which was few hours ago attacked by #BokoHaram are All Present And Accounted For.#Nigeria give all clear for the town as searches for civilians who fled in various directions are ongoing.
— Edward (@DonKlericuzio) February 20, 2018
There we rumours that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Government paid ransom for the relaese of a group of 10 women, including police officers and civil servants, who were kidnapped near Maiduguri in June.
Police initially denied the kidnapping until Boko Haram released a video weeks later showing the woman pleading for their freedom.
“Their release followed a series of negotiations as directed by President Buhari and was facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),” said presidency spokesman Garba Shehu in a statement.
“All 13 rescued persons are in the custody of the service and are on their way to Abuja with the assistance of the Nigerian Army and the Air Force.”
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, has been at the epicentre of the Islamist insurgency that has devastated the northeast of the country.
‘Looked in good health’
According to military and vigilante sources in Banki, a former town that is now a camp for internally displaced people on the Cameroon border, ICRC vehicles arrived around 12:45 pm on Saturday and drove into the bush.
They returned around 4:30 pm with the 10 women and three men, who were then flown in four helicopters — two ICRC, one military, one police — to Maiduguri.
“It’s true the 10 women have been released by Boko Haram through the ICRC officials who arrived this afternoon,” said a vigilante leader, “they (the women) didn’t talk to anyone, they looked tired but apparently in good health.”
It is not known at this stage whether a ransom was paid or if any Boko Haram prisoners were swapped in exchange for the hostages, as has happened in the past.
“The armed opposition handed the 13 people over to ICRC representatives who transported them to Nigerian authorities,” said the ICRC in a statement, adding that it did not participate in negotiations.
“This action was similar to what the ICRC did in October 2016 and May 2017, when we transported the released ‘Chibok girls’ to Nigerian officials.”
Last year, five Boko Haram commanders and an undisclosed amount of money were swapped for 82 of the more than 200 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.
Hundreds of people suspected of links to Boko Haram stood trial in a detention centre in central Nigeria on Monday in a resumption of the country’s biggest legal investigation of the militant Islamist insurgency, authorities said.
More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes in northeastern Nigeria since Boko Haram began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state.
The justice ministry said the suspects appeared in open court, after rights groups criticised earlier hearings in which more than 1,000 people stood trial in secret.
On Monday four judges presided over the trial of another several hundred people accused of links to the group, the justice ministry said.
“Unlike the first phase which was restricted, this phase is opened with some civil society groups, including human rights organisations and journalists invited to witness the proceedings,” the ministry added in a statement.
There were no immediate reports from journalists or rights activists said by the ministry to have been invited to attend.
Kainji detention facility is about eight hours’ drive from Minna, the main town in Nigeria’s Niger state, itself about three hours’ drive from the capital Abuja, along roads often plagued by kidnapping gangs.
In October, the ministry of justice said 45 suspects suspected of Boko Haram links had been convicted and jailed. A further 468 suspects were discharged and 28 suspects were remanded for trial in Abuja or Minna.
The other trials were adjourned.
Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Chijioke Ohuocha, Andrew Heavens and William Maclean
By Idris Ibrahim
At least 30,000 hostages kidnapped by the Boko Haram have been freed by soldiers, the defence minister, Mansur Dan Ali, said on Monday.
Mr. Ali stated this in Maiduguri at a Special Town Hall meeting organised for the military and security agencies.
The statement of Mr. Ali and other officials who spoke at the event were reported by the News Agency of Nigeria.
The retired brigadier general also reiterated the federal government’s commitment to promoting the welfare of soldiers battling the insurgents.
Also speaking, the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, said the Boko Haram has been completely decimated, its structure degraded and its leadership dismantled.
Earlier, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the resumption of flights, bubbling nightlife, and football matches in Maiduguri are signs that normalcy has returned to the Borno capital.
SOURCE: Premium Times
By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
NIGERIA must avoid harming the Chibok girls in its reported bombardment of a forest hideout used by the Boko Haram militants who seized them, parents and activists said on Thursday.
More than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from Chibok in 2014, and 106 have been found or freed. One more girl was found last month and 100 are still believed to be in captivity.
Some girls were reported to be killed or injured in previous attacks on the militants’ stronghold and the resumption of bombing by Nigeria’s military has raised fears of new injuries.
In recent statements covered widely by local media, the Nigerian military has announced an ongoing “clearance operation” of the Sambisa forest, in which some militants were killed
The operation could not be verified with the military but the well-flagged bombardment has led parents of the abducted girls to worry their daughters may also suffer.
“We heard that the military has surrounded Boko Haram and we are afraid that they will kill our daughters,” said Yana Galang, women’s leader of the parents’ group.
Her daughter, Rifkatu, is still missing.
“All the parents are talking about it. They heard it from the news,” Galang said in a phone call with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Some of the released girls have stated in interviews that more than a dozen of their classmates died or were severely wounded during previous Nigerian airstrikes.
“In 2014, when we founded the BBOG (Bring Back Our Girls) movement, I raised the concern that when the military goes in to rescue our girls, it must ensure that all our girls are brought back alive,” said Aisha Oyebode, co-convener of the BBOG campaign group.
“Our military must be reminded of the fundamental responsibility even in conflict, to the safety and protection of all our civilians that are behind conflict lines, which include 112 Chibok girls that still remain in captivity,” added Oyebode of the Murtala Mohammed Foundation, which supports parents of the abducted girls.
The army did not respond to a request for comment.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari had previously said Boko Haram was almost defeated but recent attacks show the group’s continued ability to stage hit-and-run raids, prompting a renewed government push.
In December, his government approved the release of $1 billion from a state oil fund to help with the fight.
(Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.
SOURCE: The Thomson Reuters Foundation.
By Ronald Mutum
A REMOTELY piloted aircraft (RPA)of the Nigerian Air Force on 27 January successfully destroyed an artillery gun and some gun trucks belonging to Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the Sambisa Forest.
A statement from Air Force Spokesman Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya on Monday said, “A NAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform and the RPA had observed the terrorists withdrawing with the artillery gun and gun trucks after an unsuccessful operation.”
He added that, “The NAF crews on both the ISR and the armed RPA trailed the withdrawing insurgents to their final destination in Parisu.”
“Thereafter, the RPA acquired the artillery gun position and attacked the piece, causing a huge explosion and destroying the equipment.
“The explosion also killed insurgents operating the equipment and those around it while a few others were sighted fleeing from the site of the explosion.
“The successful air strikes are part of the ongoing coordinated air and land operations aimed at ridding the Sambisa Forest of the remnants of the insurgents,” the Air Force statement said.
SOURCE: Daily Trust
By Kabiru Anwar
BOKO HARAM fighters have killed three persons and abducted three others during an attack on a Madagali village in Adamawa state on Friday.
Residents told Daily Trust that armed men sneaked into Hyembula village around 10pm on Friday and detonated a bomb during the pandemonium, killing seven persons including two women.
A villager who did not want his name published faulted the concentration of soldiers in towns while the insurgents had been targeting small villages where there is no military presence. He called on federal government to keep soldiers at strategic locations.
Confirming the incident, the council chairman of Madagali Local Government Area, Yusuf Muhammad said three persons died in the attack while three others were abducted by the militants.
He appealed for deployment of more soldiers and equipment to secure vulnerable communities in the area that is bordering Sambisa Forest, the main hide out of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram controlled seven local areas in Adamawa until their liberation by Nigerian soldiers backed by hunters in 2015.
Military authorities at the 28 Task Force Battalion in Mubi could not be reached for comment as at the time of filing this report.