Category: Boko Haram of West Africa


August 29, 2018

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Britain and Nigeria signed a security and defense agreement during a one-day visit by Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday as Africa’s most populous country struggles to defeat Boko Haram extremists and others linked to the Islamic State organization.

The British prime minister is on a three-country Africa visit with a large business delegation as Britain seeks to boost economic ties ahead of a bumpy exit from the European Union in March. This is the first visit by a British prime minister to Africa in five years. May also stopped in South Africa, another of the continent’s top economies, and she goes next to Kenya.

After meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, May said the countries will work together on “shared security threats like Boko Haram and human trafficking.” The defense aid includes more training and equipment for Nigeria’s military, which has been criticized by human rights groups over alleged abuses that it denies.

Last week, Buhari attracted headlines when he told troops in northwestern Zamfara state that “as your commander-in-chief, I want you to be as ruthless as humanly possible” against bandits in the region: “Nigerians deserve some peace.”

As elections approach next year Buhari is under pressure to deliver on promises to improve the country’s security, in particular to defeat Boko Haram’s years-long insurgency in the northeast. The extremists, known both for mass abductions and for using young women as suicide bombers, continue to carry out attacks on military bases and in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the insurgency’s birthplace.

Buhari and his government more than once have declared that Boko Haram had been crushed. As Europe worries about migration and human trafficking from West Africa, May also announced a new project with France to help Nigeria, the region’s powerhouse, and neighboring Niger improve border cooperation along one of the main migration routes north. Nigeria and other West African countries in recent months have brought hundreds of migrants stranded in Libya home after reports of abuses, but the dream of employment remains a draw for some in the region where poverty and climate change can bite hard.

As it tries to assert itself more across Africa, Britain also is opening new embassies in Niger and Chad and expanding its embassy in Mali, calling it support to countries “on the front line of instability” as West Africa’s vast, arid Sahel is threatened by a number of extremist groups with shifting allegiances.

Britain and Nigeria, Britain’s second-largest trading partner on the continent, also signed an agreement on economic cooperation. May welcomed the commitment from two major Nigeria companies, Dangote Cement and Seplat Petroleum to make listings on the London Stock Exchange.

October 13, 2017

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian court has convicted 45 Boko Haram members in the largest mass trial in the Islamic extremist group’s history. The closed-door proceedings have raised the concerns of human rights groups about whether the trials of the 1,669 people will be fair.

These are the first results of the mass trials that began early this week at a military barracks in northern Nigeria. The judges are drafted from civil courts, while the barracks are being used for security reasons.

The 45 people were sentenced to between three and 31 years in prison, the country’s information minister said in a statement Friday. Another 468 suspects were released, but the court ordered that they undergo deradicalization programs.

The government has not said what exactly the hundreds of suspects are charged with. Nigeria is trying to show it is making progress against the extremist group that has killed more than 20,000 people during its eight-year insurgency. Boko Haram has yet to comment publicly on the mass trials.

Nigeria has arrested thousands of suspected Boko Haram members in recent years, and military detention facilities are overcrowded. Human rights groups say most of those detained have been picked up at random and without reasonable suspicion, including women and children.

Former detainees have described malnutrition, mistreatment and deaths in the facilities. Boko Haram’s attacks have spilled into neighboring countries and displaced more than 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad region, creating a vast humanitarian crisis. Some fighters have allied with the Islamic State group.

While Nigeria’s military has arrested many Boko Haram top fighters and last year declared the extremist group had been “crushed,” leader Abubakar Shekau remains elusive. The group in recent months has carried out a growing number of deadly suicide bombings and other attacks, many carried out by women or children.

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”.