Category: Boko Haram of West Africa


May 11, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Nigeria’s government is negotiating “seriously” for the release of more than 110 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls still held by Boko Haram and will exchange more detained members of the extremist group for them if needed, an official said Thursday.

“We will not relent until all are back,” the minister of women’s affairs and social development, Aisha Alhassan, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. The mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from a boarding school three years ago brought world attention to Boko Haram’s deadly rampage in northern Nigeria. Thousands have been kidnapped or killed in the group’s eight-year insurgency, with millions driven from their homes.

On Saturday, 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls were released. Nigeria’s government exchanged them for five detained Boko Haram commanders, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to reporters on the matter. Negotiations with the extremist group, mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government, also resulted in the October release of a first group of 21 Chibok girls.

Alhassan said Nigeria’s government had no regrets about exchanging Boko Haram commanders for the schoolgirls’ release. “We’ll do it again if needed,” she said in comments tweeted by Nigeria’s government.

Families in Chibok were meeting with community leaders to identify the newly freed schoolgirls from photos to determine if they will travel to the capital to meet them. The young women were joining those released earlier in government care in Abuja, where they were undergoing medical screening that will take a couple of weeks, Alhassan said. Some must undergo surgery, she said.

The government has been caring for 24 previously released girls and four babies, Alhassan said. A small number of the schoolgirls managed to escape on their own. The group of girls released in October were in “bad shape” and spent two months in medical care, the minister said.

Human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping them so long in the capital, far from their homes. Alhassan said they traveled to Chibok for Christmas but upon their return to the capital said they were scared to go back to their community.

The girls said they wanted to go back to school so a nine-month reintegration program was designed for them, the minister said. The newly released girls will join the program. The parents of the freed Chibok schoolgirls “are free to visit them at any time. We will never prevent them from seeing their daughters,” Alhassan said.

Some of the girls who escaped shortly after the mass kidnapping said some classmates had died from illness, and others were radicalized and didn’t want to come home. Human rights advocates have said they fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

May 07, 2017

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls seized three years ago by Boko Haram have been freed in exchange for detained suspects with the extremist group, Nigeria’s government announced early Sunday, in the largest release negotiated yet in the battle to save nearly 300 girls whose mass abduction exposed the mounting threat posed by the Islamic State-linked fighters.

The statement from the office of President Muhammadu Buhari was the first confirmation that his government had made a swap for the girls. After an initial release of 21 Chibok girls in October, the government denied making an exchange or paying ransom.

The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and, for families of the schoolgirls, began years marked with heartbreak. Some relatives did not live long enough to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without ever knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

As word of the latest release emerged, long-suffering family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and “our hopes and expectations are high.” Before Saturday’s release, 195 of the girls had remained captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for.

The freed girls were expected to meet with Buhari on Sunday in the capital, Abuja. A Nigerian military official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the freed girls were found near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

“The location of the girls kept changing since yesterday when the operation to rescue them commenced,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the announcement.

Boko Haram remains active in that area. On Friday, the United States and Britain issued warnings that the extremist group was actively planning to kidnap foreigners in an area of Borno state “along the Kumshe-Banki axis.”

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by Boko Haram over the years. The mass abduction shocked the world, sparking a global #Bringbackourgirls campaign supported by former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and other celebrities. It has put tremendous pressure on Nigeria’s government to counter the extremist group, which has roamed large parts of the north and into neighboring countries.

“This is a very, very exciting news for us that we have over 80 of our girls coming back again,” Bukky Shonibare with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign told Sky TV. “Their life in captivity has been one that depicts suffering, it depicts the fact that they have been starved, abused, and as we have seen before some of those girls have come back with children, and some of them have also come back with news of how they have been sexually abused.”

The latest negotiations were again mediated by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Nigeria’s government said. At the initial release of girls in October, the government said the release of another 83 would be coming soon. But at the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had “gone quite far” but faced challenges.

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

Larson reported from Dakar. Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, and Hilary Uguru in Warri, Nigeria, contributed.

25 December 2016 Sunday

Nigeria Sunday will reopen at least two major roads in the country’s northeast previously closed due to repeated attacks by Boko Haram militants, the government announced.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed Mohammed said the Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak and the Maiduguri-Mungono-Baga roads, both strategically important for international trade among Lake Chad nations, would be reopened at a ceremony attended by top government and military officials.

The reopening follows Saturday’s announcement that the army has finally dislodged Boko Haram from the vast Sambisa forest, including the so-called “camp zero” known as the militants’ stronghold.

President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the victory in a statement, claiming it marked the final defeat for Boko Haram.

Mohammed said the reopening ceremony will be witnessed by military chiefs, followed by a lunch with the troops who crushed the insurgency.

Most analysts welcomed the announcement of Boko Haram’s “final defeat” with cautious optimism, warning that security forces letting down their guard could lead militants to exploit this and launch costly attacks on civilians.

Nigeria’s December 2015 announcement of a so-called technical defeat of Boko Haram was followed by rising militant attacks and suicide bombings.

Ambushes on military targets have claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, including three lieutenant-colonels, although the group’s ability to launch physical attacks is thought to have waned considerably.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182215/nigeria-to-open-major-roads-after-strike-on-boko-haram.

24 December 2016 Saturday

Nigeria’s army has driven Boko Haram militants out of their strongest hideout in the dreaded Sambisa Forest, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Saturday, claiming a huge blow has been dealt to the insurgents.

“I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram mlitants in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest,” the president said in a goodwill message to the troops.

He said the militants were driven out of the notorious “camp zero” located deep inside the vast northeastern forest, a day after an army spokesman alerted Nigerians of the need to be vigilant and report strange persons to security agencies.

“I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, Dec. 23, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice,” said the president.

“I, therefore, call on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that will expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.”

He added, “Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity,” referring to 276 female students abducted by Boko Haram in 2014.

Boko Haram occupied Sambisa – a huge colonial-era forest reserve estimated at the size of Lagos – shortly the 2009 crackdown which led to the killing of their leader Muhammed Yusuf. The militants have used various camps in the forest to launch attacks across the northeast region.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182178/nigeria-army-claims-capture-of-boko-haram-stronghold.

May 14, 2016

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — The multinational forces fighting the Islamic extremists of Boko Haram have arrested five of the group’s leaders and freed dozens of captive women and children, Cameroon’s government announced Saturday.

The raids targeting Boko Haram bases in the northern Madawaya forest earlier this month freed 28 children and at least 18 women, government spokesman Issa Tchiroma said. Boko Haram had set up camp in the forest after fleeing another military operation in neighboring Nigeria and had been training captive young girls and women as suicide bombers, he said.

The news came as French President Francois Hollande joined several West African leaders at a summit in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, where they discussed progress in the fight against Boko Haram and how to resolve the humanitarian crisis it has created. The extremist group has forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes, some across borders.

“We have to make sure they can get back to their homes,” Hollande said after meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari before the summit, noting the need for “the right development policies.” Marginalization and corruption has allowed the Islamic extremists to flourish in northeast Nigeria.

Both leaders stressed the success of a multinational force of Nigeria and its neighbors — helped by training, intelligence and information-sharing by France, Britain and the United States — that has recaptured territory where Boko Haram had declared an Islamic caliphate. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was at the summit along with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Now our main problem is the rehabilitation of infrastructure destroyed — educational, health, bridges blown, etc,” Buhari said. But many refugees say they will not return home until it is safe and there are doubts Nigeria’s military can secure the vast rural areas where Boko Haram now roams. The extremists have turned to using suicide bombers, often women and girls, to hit soft targets like mosques and marketplaces.

The nearly 7-year insurgency, which has spread beyond Nigeria’s borders, has killed at least 20,000 people, according to Amnesty International.

28 April 2015 Tuesday

The ISIL armed group may have gained a firm foothold beyond the Middle East and North Africa for the first time, after Nigeria’s Boko Haram adopted the name “ISIL’s West Africa Province” (ISWAP).

The Nigerian armed group’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL last month, but the diffuse organization had appeared to continue to operate under its official name.

But now propaganda materials shared by ISIL-affiliated social media accounts have dropped both those names for ISWAP, and appear to share the slick production values and brazen style more usually associated with members in Syria and Iraq.

The images show Boko Haram members toting guns and with their faces visible for the first time – with the exception of figurehead Shekau, group members have previously been reluctant to reveal their identities.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/158459/boko-haram-changes-its-name-to-isil-in-west-africa.

July 30, 2015

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s Defense Ministry has appointed a new general to head the multinational army it is hoped can defeat the Boko Haram Islamic uprising that has killed 20,000 people and driven nearly 2 million from their homes.

Thursday’s appointment comes as the West African nation’s new president promised deeper collaboration with neighboring states in the fight against Islamic extremism. President Muhammadu Buhari headed home Thursday after two days of talks in Cameroon focused on Boko Haram.

Its attacks have spread across Nigeria’s borders and forced tens of thousands of refugees to flee to neighboring states. Chad announced Thursday that its troops killed 13 Boko Haram fighters in attacks this week near Lake Chad, where militants slit the throats of three villagers.

It said the extremists had kidnapped about 30 people, and spirited them away on speed boats. Nigeria’s Defense Ministry said Maj. Gen. Iliyasu Isah Abbah will command the 8,700-strong four-nation army based in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital.

Buhari has said it is a disgrace that Nigeria needs foreign troops on its soil. But he noted before leaving Cameroon that “none of us can succeed alone.” Relations with Cameroon have been strained by a long-simmering border dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, but the two leaders agreed Thursday that demarcation of their border under U.N. auspices should be completed by year’s end.

Nigeria’s military, poorly equipped with soldiers reporting going into battle without rations and just 30 bullets, last year allowed Boko Haram to take control of a large swath of the northeast. Chadian troops earlier this year forced the militants out of Nigerian border towns. Nigerian troops trained by South African mercenaries drove the extremists from most other towns.

But suicide bombings and village assaults have increased recently. Buhari this month fired all the military’s top commanders. The former chief of defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, complained in a retirement address Wednesday that “fifth columnists” in the military and security agencies have leaked information to the insurgents, causing the deaths of many troops ambushed by militants who had advance warning.

Associated Press writer Dany Padire contributed to this report from N’Djamena, Chad.

April 24, 2015

Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) – Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have forced hundreds of soldiers to flee Marte, a border town along the shores of Lake Chad, a local official and witnesses said.

“The terrorists, numbering over 2,000, appeared from various directions on Thursday and engaged the soldiers in Kirenowa town and adjoining communities in Marte,” said Imamu Habeeb, a local community leader.

“They fought with soldiers over the night and the fight continued today (Friday), forcing hundreds of soldiers to flee,” he added from Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Local fighter Shehu Dan Baiwa said the more than 2,000 fighters had been armed with bombs and tanks. “They used the weapons without restraint and succeeded in killing several people,” he said.

This is the third time Boko Haram has seized control of Marte in restive Borno state, a key battleground of their six-year insurgency, which has killed more than 13,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.

The city is among several retaken in recent weeks by Nigeria’s military, which has launched an offensive against the Islamists as part of a regional operation supported by Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

But Boko Haram have been fighting back, and Nigerian troops were also forced to retreat from Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold this week after a landmine blast killed one soldier and three vigilantes.

A senior local politician confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the insurgents had retaken Marte.

“We lost many (people) because some of our people that fled to Chad and Cameroon have return after Nigerian troops recovered the town recently,” he added.

A senior military official confirmed the attack on Marte, but refused to say whether Boko Haram had retaken the town, describing the army’s retreat as “strategic”.

March 29, 2015

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists killed 41 people, including a legislator, and scared hundreds of people from polling stations in the northeast, but millions voted across Nigeria Saturday in the most closely contested presidential race in the nation’s history.

In electoral violence elsewhere, three people including a soldier were shot and killed in political thuggery in southern Rivers state, and two car bombs exploded at polling stations in the southeast but no one was injured, according to police.

All the Boko Haram attacks took place in northeastern Nigeria, where the military Friday announced it had cleared the Islamic extremists from all major centers, including the headquarters of their so-called Islamic caliphate.

Nearly 60 million people have cards to vote, and for the first time there is a possibility that a challenger can defeat a sitting president in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s richest and most populous nation.

The front-runners among 14 candidates are President Goodluck Jonathan, a 57-year-old Christian from the south, and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, 72, from the predominantly Muslim north. Voters also are electing 360 legislators to the House of Assembly, where the opposition currently has a slight edge over Jonathan’s party. Voting for 13 constituencies was postponed until April because of shortages of ballot papers, electoral officials said.

Nigeria’s political landscape was transformed two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and for the first time united behind one candidate, Buhari. Dozens of legislators defected from Jonathan’s party.

Polling will continue Sunday in some areas where new machines largely failed to read voters’ biometric cards, said Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. That includes some areas of Lagos, a megacity of 20 million and Nigeria’s commercial capital on the Atlantic coast.

Even the president was affected. Three newly imported card readers failed to recognize the fingerprints of Jonathan and his wife. Biometric cards and readers are being used for the first time to discourage the kind of fraud that has marred previous votes.

Afterward, Jonathan wiped sweat from his brow and urged people to be patient as he had been, telling Channels TV: “I appeal to all Nigerians to be patient no matter the pains it takes as long as if, as a nation, we can conduct free and fair elections that the whole world will accept.”

Nigerians exercised extraordinary restraint, waiting hours in heat that rose to 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius) in some places. Many remained for more hours after voting ended to witness the ballot count, determined to do their part to try to keep the elections honest.

“The high voter turnout and the dedication and patience of Nigerian voters is, in itself, a triumph of Nigerian democracy,” said the national counter-insurgency spokesman, Mike Omeri. He praised the bravery and commitment of military and security agencies that he said made the elections possible.

Struggling with blackouts that are routine, some officials counted ballots by the light of vehicles and cellphones. Earlier, before dawn, Boko Haram extremists invaded the town of Miringa in Borno state, torching people’s homes and then shooting them as they tried to escape the smoke. Twenty-five people died in the attack, Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima told a news conference in the city of Maiduguri.

“They had sent messages earlier warning us not to encourage democracy by participating in today’s election,” said Mallam Garba Buratai, a Miringa resident who witnessed the attack. Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremists say democracy is a corrupt Western concept and point to the endemic corruption as a reason to do away with it in favor of an Islamic caliphate.

Another 14 people were killed in extremist attacks on the town of Biri and Dukku, in Gombe state, according to police and local chief Garkuwan Dukku. Among the dead was a Gombe state legislator, Umaru Ali, said Sani Dugge, the local campaign director for the opposition coalition.

Two voters were killed in Boko Haram attacks on polling stations in the twin Gombe towns of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani, according to police. Witnesses said the gunmen yelled that they had warned people to stay away from polling.

In four other northeast towns in Yobe state, gunmen drove in and fired into the air, frightening people to flee into the bush and disrupting any voting, police said. Thousands of people, among more than 1.5 million forced from their homes by the Islamic uprising, lined up to vote at a refugee camp in Yola, capital of northeast Adamawa state and home to as many refugees as its 300,000 residents.

Refugee Elzubairu Ali does not know when she will be able to return to her home. “We have to wait for the time when the Nigerian army will totally wipe them (Boko Haram) out before we can go back,” she said after voting.

Yola resident and university lecturer Abdullahi Sani said, “I’m longing for a change, a positive change to affect the life of humanity, to protect their reputation, their lives and property . and to eradicate corruption finally.”

The failure of Jonathan’s administration to curb the insurgency, which killed about 10,000 people last year, has angered Nigerians in the north. International outrage has grown over another failure — the inability to rescue 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly a year ago. The extremists have abducted hundreds more people since then, using them as sex slaves and fighters.

Nervous foreign investors are watching as Nigeria is Africa’s largest destination for direct foreign investment though its oil-dependent economy is hurting from slashed petroleum prices. The Islamic uprising has exacerbated relations between Christians like Jonathan, who dominate the oil-rich south, and Muslims like Buhari, who are the majority in the agricultural and cattle-herding lands of the north. The population of 170 million is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Some 1,000 people were killed in rioting after Buhari lost to Jonathan in the 2011 elections. Thousands of Nigerians and foreign workers have left the country amid fears of post-election violence. In 2011, there was no doubt that Jonathan had swept the polls by millions of votes.

Now the race is much closer. Results are expected 48 hours after voting ends. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held.

Umar reported from Maiduguri. Associated Press writers Jerome Delay in Kaduna, Shehu Saulawa in Bauchi, Adamu Adamu in Potiskum, Lekan Oyekanmi in Yola, Hilary Uguru in Port Harcourt, and Ben Curtis in Daura, also contributed to this report.

February 13, 2015

MOUNDOU, Chad (AP) — Suspected Boko Haram militants staged their first attack in Chad on Friday, hitting the third country outside their home base of Nigeria in recent days as the region beefs up its military response to the armed Muslim extremist group.

The assault took place in the village of Ngouboua on the shore of Lake Chad early Friday, and left a community leader, one Chadian soldier and at least two militants dead, Chad’s military said. Boko Haram has threated any nation contributing to the fight against them. The nation of Chad is contributing the most military muscle to the effort, with its soldiers already attacking the insurgents in the countries of Cameroon and Nigeria.

“The assailants have scattered and the army is now pursuing them,” Chad army Col. Azem Bermandoa Agouna told The Associated Press by telephone. Ngouboua is already home to nearly 3,300 refugees who had fled Boko Haram-related violence back home in Nigeria, according to the United Nations. The U.N. refugee agency said Friday it had heard reports of the deadly violence there and was investigating.

“Security is a major concern for all humanitarian agencies, and for the refugees themselves,” the agency said Friday at a briefing in Geneva. Boko Haram’s insurgency has forced some 157,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, while 40,000 others have gone to Cameroon and 17,000 are in Chad, the U.N. said. Almost 1 million Nigerians are internally displaced, according to the country’s own statistics.

The United Nations special representative for West Africa said Friday that Nigeria’s military needs to show “greater resolve” in the widening fight against the extremist group Boko Haram. “I think we all expect more from the Nigerian military,” Mohammed Ibn Chambas said at the U.N.

Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin all have pledged to send military support though Chadian soldiers are already fighting Boko Haram militants inside Cameroon and Nigeria. The multinational force to fight Boko Haram is expected to be formally launched in coming weeks.

Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press reporter Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.