Over the past few days, the al Qaeda-linked terror group Boko Haram has taken over another town in Borno state, slaughtering at least 50 residents, and stormed a town in neighboring Cameroon, killing 10 and kidnapping a child. The Nigerian military claims to be conducting operations against the group in Borno but appears to have little to show for its efforts, and was recently accused of committing atrocities in its battle against Boko Haram.
Suspected Boko Haram fighters seized a village in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria yesterday. According to a local vigilante leader, the attackers came from “all corners” of the town, killing at least 50 people. In the attack, the gunmen reportedly opened fire on residents, and burned a police station, churches, and other buildings.
In the aftermath of the attack, reports indicate that the local emir, Mohammed Timta, is missing. His father, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, the previous emir, was killed by members of Boko Haram in May when traveling in a convoy with other religious leaders.
A few weeks ago, Boko Haram raised its flag over Damboa, another town in Borno State. In the weeks since, the Nigerian military has been struggling to regain control.
Nigeria’s special forces have forcibly retaken five villages, including Damboa, according to a statement from the Defense Headquarters today. The ongoing operation was designed to apprehend the terrorists and restore normalcy to the affected communities. A security source told Nigeria’s Daily Post that while Boko Haram was holding the attention of the Nigerian army in Damboa, the terror group suddenly attacked Gwoza.
The Gwoza area has been targeted by Boko Haram previously. In February, 121 people were killed in the village of Izghe, and on May 25, over 20 churchgoers were killed in Gwoza town during a service. The following day, six churches were among many properties set alight in Gwoza by the insurgents. Currently, Nigerian special forces are battling insurgents to push them out of Gwoza.
Recent attacks across northern Nigeria have sent refugees scattering throughout the region. Thousands fleeing Borno state arrived earlier this week on a previously uninhabited island in Lake Chad. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently estimated that nearly 650,000 people have been forced from their homes as a result of Boko Haram’s activities.
The group is also suspected of attacking the town of Zigague in northern Cameroon yesterday, where insurgents reportedly killed 10 people. A local police officer told the BBC: “A group of people we think are linked with Boko Haram made an incursion this afternoon in Zigague. They blocked the road and opened fire.” One of the dead was a Cameroonian soldier. Continuing the pattern of abductions, the attackers were seen raiding the local chief’s house and exiting with his child in their custody.
Earlier this week, American surveillance flights over Nigeria spotted large groups of girls held together in remote locations in northeastern Nigeria. It is thought that these are the schoolgirls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram from their dormitories in Chibok. Of the 276 girls originally abducted, 57 have since escaped from their captors, and efforts are ongoing to find and retrieve the remaining 219 young women.
Today, reports also appeared in the Nigerian press of suspected Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria’s northern Yobe state. Gujba Local Government area residents are claiming that insurgents from the group are occupying military camps in Buni Yadi, Buni Gari, and Goniri. Details on the events are still emerging.
Regional leaders in Nigeria’s south are becoming increasingly alarmed by the terror group’s continuing rampage. Seeking to prevent Boko Haram’s activities from extending into Nigeria’s southeast, Igbo leaders are urging the federal government to take action. In a published letter, the authors wrote, “In this season, which could easily be described as the season of uneasy calm before the impending storm we remind the authorities that if Boko Haram does succeed in bombing the South-East with casualties, it would be impossible to stop the catastrophe that would follow; reprisals and counter-reprisals.” Similarly, authorities in Akwa Ibo state on Nigeria’s south coast reported that Boko Haram has sent text messages threatening to to bomb public places, including markets and churches, in the state.
Nigeria’s government and security forces have been heavily criticized for their inability to curtail Boko Haram’s ability to operate. In addition, they have been accused of atrocities themselves. Amnesty International released a gruesome video this week documenting extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations committed by the Nigerian military in its war against Boko Haram.
In an effort to squelch rumors that Boko Haram’s alleged ‘chief butcher,” Zakari Mohammed Ardo, was at large, police yesterday paraded Ardo in front of the press and allowed him to speak. Ardo reportedly stated, “I joined the Boko Haaram group two years ago. Before I was arrested, I have slaughtered five people.” Reports had surfaced earlier this week that the military did not have him in custody or know his whereabouts.