Category: Injustice of Boko Haram


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.

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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.

December 21, 2014

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Thousands of members of Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremist Boko Haram group strike across the border in Cameroon, with coordinated attacks on border towns, a troop convoy and a major barracks.

Farther north, Boko Haram employs recruits from Chad to enforce its control in northeastern Nigerian towns and cities. In Niger, the government has declared a “humanitarian crisis” and appealed for international aid to help tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees driven from their homes by the insurgency.

These recent events show how neighboring countries are increasingly being drawn into Nigeria’s Islamic uprising. Thousands of people have been killed in Nigeria’s 5-year insurgency and some 1.6 million people driven from their homes.

“We are concerned about the increasing regionalization of Boko Haram,” said Comfort Ero, Africa director for the International Crisis Group. The countries have been slow to recognize “the gravity and extent of the threat from Boko Haram.”

Ero cautioned that cooperation between the neighboring countries is weak. “None of the sides is willing to share information with the other,” Ero said. “There’s always been a lack of confidence in terms of shared regional security.”

She said there is also distrust of the capabilities of Nigeria’s once-proud military, which has been battered by Boko Haram. A court-martial this week sentenced 54 soldiers to death by firing squad for refusing to fight the extremists.

Chad responded this week by opening a regional “counter-terrorism cell” against Boko Haram in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital 40 miles (60 kilometers) from the Nigerian border, according to an adviser to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Boko Haram’s threat to neighboring countries was highlighted on Wednesday, when some 5,000 insurgents launched simultaneous attacks on border towns in Cameroon, that country’s Ministry of Defense said. During the fighting, the militants set off a roadside improvised explosive device that hit a military convoy. They also attacked the main border barracks at Amchide town, the defense statement said.

Cameroonian troops repelled the attacks and killed 116 militants, while losing a sergeant and a lieutenant, it said, adding that Boko Haram must have suffered additional casualties on the Nigerian side caused by Cameroonian artillery fire.

Fighters from Chad, Niger and Cameroon long have been identified among Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria. But residents fleeing Boko Haram now report that Chadian recruits are enforcing Boko Haram’s rule in northeast Nigerian border towns in Borno state. People who escaped from Gajigana village, which was attacked a week ago, said fighters they called “Chadian mercenaries” have taken charge of most communities, even sitting in courts to adjudicate local disputes.

“They monitor every movement, all the things we do, the kind of people you meet with,” said Kalli Abdullahi, who escaped to Maiduguri this week and spoke to The Associated Press. If residents break the strict Shariah law “they will get you and kill you so as to instill fear in people,” he said.

Nigerian government officials confirm that Boko Haram controls 12 of 27 local government areas in Borno state, as well as some in Adamawa and Yobe states. And they long have had camps in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, say experts.

The area where the four countries’ borders meet is generally poor and long has been ignored by governments. Desertification has intensified tensions. High unemployment means there are groups of disgruntled youths who are an easy target for Boko Haram recruitment. Across borders, people often belong to the same tribe and speak the same local languages. Boko Haram offers signing bonuses and monthly pay to those who join, say residents.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau long has expressed his international ambitions, saying his group is fighting to make “the entire world” an Islamic state. Analyst Ely Karmon wrote in a paper for the Terrorism Research Initiative that Boko Haram is “an immediate and infectious regional threat.”

Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Paris. Faul reported from Cambridge, England.