Boko Haram gains ground



Over the weekend, Boko Haram continued its assault on Damboa in northeastern Nigeria's Borno state, gaining ground while sending local villagers running for their lives.

Sitting on the main road to state capital Maiduguri, Damboa has been besieged by the terrorist group since July 4, when Boko Haram attacked a tank battalion base on the town's outskirts.

On July 6, the town's police station and army camp were hit by the group, sending the security forces scurrying. Much to the town's misfortune, it was left unprotected and under siege.

The latest attack began on July 18 as suspected Boko Haram fighters hit Damboa at dawn, throwing explosives into homes and firing on scrambling villagers. The insurgents reportedly used rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs. The group also burnt down the town's market. Later in the day, Boko Haram struck again, killing many more as the remaining villagers were attempting to bury their dead.

As the onslaught subsided, Boko Haram fighters reportedly hoisted their black al-Qaeda-inspired flag over the town, claiming victory with over 100 villagers dead.

A local official told Agence France Presse, "Those who could not flee surrendered and were killed by the insurgents." Additionally, residents of nearby towns had begun to flee after having received a letter from Boko Haram threatening to attack and take over their land. A representative from Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said they had records of 15,204 people who fled Damboa and other nearby villages.

Responding to the events, Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade commented yesterday, "We are not conceding any portion of this country to any terrorist group .... Our patrols are active and they are stepping up their activities to reverse any insecurity there."

In recent months, Boko Haram has amplified its offensive across Nigeria, increasing both the frequency and the ferocity of its attacks. The incidents over the weekend may mark a turning point, however, as the group appears to have taken new ground and continued to hold it, rather than simply conducting hit-and-run attacks. Last week, Boko Haram destroyed a bridge south of the town, essentially cutting Damboa and Maiduguri off from the outside. This act, in combination with the weekend's territorial win, may be part of a larger, longterm strategy by the terrorist group to take ground and establish its own state.



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READER COMMENTS: "Boko Haram gains ground"

Posted by Lint at July 23, 2014 12:01 AM ET:

Nigera better respond to these marauding Islamists "proportionately" else Hollywood celebs and Islamic sociopaths all over the world will equate Nigeria to Israel.

Posted by Evan at July 23, 2014 9:41 AM ET:

It certainly seems that capturing and holding ground is BH's new strategy for the region. They already control swathes of territory that straddles multiple, ambiguous borders, i.e. Cameroon, and the Sambisa forest. It looks like they've used those secure, remote areas to push out in a bid to win more territory/resources.

Where does BH fit in to the whole IS/AQ schism? Have they said which side they support or pledged bayat to Baghdadi or Big Z or anything? It certainly seems possible that BH could be emboldened by the IS's recent gains, as well as their longtime, nominal control of large swathes of land and lucrative infrastructure. BH sees that, and thinks,"we should have an Islamic emirate," or "we should control this or that."
They've seen the power that comes with controll over land, resources, infrastructure, people, etc, and now they want in on the action.

Do the Nigerians have any sort of airlift capability, like helo's ?
How important, strategically, is the bridge? Can it be repaired?

I wonder sometimes what these people are made of, and it's always interesting to see how a country's warriors fight, and how they conduct themselves, and the thing I wonder about sometimes is just wether or not the rest of the world, particularly the Nigerian armed forces and associated militias in this instance, really have what it takes to defeat groups like Boko Haram. Do they really have the strength to do what's necessary? All the weapons in the world, and all the most high tech gear won't make a damn bit of difference if the men behind that gear and those weapons lack the conviction and fortitude to do what they must to survive.

I don't necessarily mean to pick on the Nigerians by any means, they are just one of many many countries that I have noticed a startling disparity in between the states' military apparatus, and Islamic insurgents, mostly of the AQ/IS breed.
Is it really that these guys from AQ/IS are just naturally tougher somehow or someway? No. Are they just smarter? No. I believe it's part ideology, and part training.

What are the Nigerians fighting for? What motivates them? What do they care if a village from some far off tribe is being attacked? Where do their loyalties lie? Are they more tribal, or regional, ethnic? What makes their gears turn, so to speak?