On Saturday, a least 65 people were killed during an attack by Islamist militant group Boko Haram near the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri.
Security officials have disclosed that the remains of a dozen victims were burnt beyond recognition in Saturday’s attack when militants opened fire on residents, set fire to houses and targeted a crowd with suicide bombers. A Nigerian military spokesman, Colonel Mustapha Ankas, disclosed that Boko Haram militants attacked the community of Dalori, which is located about 5 kilometres (3 miles) east of Maiduguri in Borno state. He added that the insurgents entered Dalori in two cars and on motorcycles and opened fire on residents and burned down houses. Saturday’s incident was the third attack this week suspected to have been carried out by the insurgent group. It is also the most deadly.
Since it began loosing control of territory, Boko Haram has reverted to hit-and-run attacks, targeting villages as well as suicide bombings on places of worship or markers.
On Friday, in neighboring Adamawa state, a suicide bomber believed to be a Boko Haram militant killed ten people and at least 12 were killed on Wednesday in an attack that targeted the Borno state village of Chibok, from where over 200 schoolgirls were abducted in 2014.
On Monday, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the newly elected president will this week make his first foreign trip since taking office.
Newly elected President Buhari is due to travel to neighboring Niger on Wednesday and to Chad on Thursday. Niger shares a border with Borno and Yobe states while Chad borders Borno state in Nigeria’s extreme northeast. According to Shehu Garba, the two-day trip will focus on “maters of security,” with the cooperation of Nigeria’s neighbors seen as being critical to ending the militant uprising, which since 2009 has claimed more than 15,000 lives.
President Buhari was sworn in last Friday and during his inaugural speech, he vowed to crush the insurgent group, which he described as “mindless” and “godless.” Despite this vow, Boko Haram carried out an attack some twelve hours after the new president took the oath of office, targeting homes in the key northeastern city of Maiduguri. Overnight on Saturday, the militants stormed the city, launching rocket-propelled grenades. Later, a suicide attack at a mosque in the city, which is the Borno state capital, killed at least twenty-six people and injured dozens others. On Sunday, the militants raided two towns in Borno’s neighboring state of Yobe, where they torched public buildings and looted food and fuel stores.
While former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had previously complained that Nigeria’s neighbors were not doing enough in order to contain Boko Haram, as in some instances, the militants were able to flee military pursuit by crossing porous borders, a four-nation offensive launched in February, and which includes troops from Cameroon, has won significant victories, however there are growing fears that Boko Haram may be regrouping, particularly in the remote border areas which are difficult to patrol. In turn, both Chad and Niger have complained of a lack of cooperation from Nigeria, which has strained relations with all its neighbors. Chadian troops have also had to retake some towns from Boko Haram several times as Nigerian troops haven’t arrived in order to secure them.
At least eight people were killed Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a livestock market in northeastern Nigeria, as Boko Haram violence begins to escalate after a period of relative calm. The latest attack comes as Boko Haram militants have launched a series of attacks on towns and villages in Borno and neighbouring Adamawa state, prompting fears that the on going military offensive has failed to stem the militant group’s capabilities of carrying deadly attacks.
Tuesday’s suicide bombing targeted a livestock market in a village in Adamawa state, where militants shot dead three people and kidnapped seven women at the weekend. According to state assembly lawmaker Jerry Kundusi, the bombing occurred outside a livestock market at about 1:15 PM (1215 GMT) in the village of Garkida, which is located some 165 kilometres (100 miles) north of the state capital, Yola, and near the state border with Borno. Eyewitnesses have reported, “it was a lone bomber who blew himself up just outside the livestock market.”
Over the past weekend, Boko Haram gunmen killed three people and abducted seven women in a raid on a northeastern district previously declared safe by the military. According to Madagali local government chief Maina Ularamu, “the insurgents attacked the (Sabon Gari Hyembula) village around 10:30 PM (2130 GMT) where they killed three people and kidnapped seven women,” adding that they looted food supplies and left thirteen people injured. Madagali fell under Boko Haram’s control in August and forced thousands of residents to flee their homes. In March, the defense ministry indicated that the area was cleared of insurgents, resulting in those displaced to begin returning home. The latest violence however has forced civilians to flee the region again. This latest attack has also underscored the persisting threat posed by Boko Haram despite the on going military offensive. According to the district chief, militants “have been pushed out of Madagali district but there are still remnants… hiding in nearby mountains and bushes,” adding that the area has recently seen a string of night-time raids, with militants typically targeting food stores and kidnapping people.
Over the past week, Boko Haram violence has escalated, with the militant group carrying out a deadly attack near the Borno state capital and recapturing a strategic town.
Last Wednesday, residents and the army reported that Boko Haram fighters launched an attack on Maiduguri but were repelled by Nigerian troops after intense clashes. Witnesses reported that dozens of militants armed with heavy guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the northern outskirts of the city, near the Giwa military base, shooting and firing explosives indiscriminately. In a statement released late Wednesday, the army disclosed that soldiers had fought off “a band of terrorists” and that two bombs carried by female suicide bombers were detonated ahead of the attack. The following day, sources disclosed that at least three soldiers, six vigilantes and dozens of Boko Haram insurgents were killed during clashes. According to civilian vigilante official Yusuf Sani, “three soldiers were killed during a fight with the terrorists while six of our members were killed by three female suicide bombers.” In the aftermath of the attack, the army imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew, with on the ground sources reporting that streets were deserted and that only soldiers and police were seen patrolling. Schools, markets, and public buildings, including hospitals, were also closed. Wednesday’s assault is the first to occur on Maiduguri in three months, following sweeping offensives on Boko Haram strongholds carried out by a regional coalition of troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Meanwhile on Saturday, a young suicide bomber blew herself up in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, killing at least seven people and wounding 27 others. According to eyewitnesses, the girl, believed to be aged about 12, detonated the explosives at a busy market near a bus station. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, the attack bears the hallmark of previous Boko Haram suicide bombings. While in recent weeks, a military offensive has recaptured significant amount of territory from the militant group, resulting I the frequency of raids and bomb attacks to significantly decrease, over the past week, several attacks suggest that the militants are returning to guerrilla warfare tactics.
According to a regional official, Boko Haram militants have recaptured the strategic town of Marte in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, just weeks after the military indicated that it had contained the militants in a forest stronghold. Since 2013, the town, which is located along a strategic trading route between Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, has traded hands between the jihadists and government troops several times. While a regional military coalition, composed of troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has claimed a series of major victories against Boko Haram since it launched an offensive in February, recently, the Islamist group has been pushing back, carrying out a deadly assault on villages near Maiduguri, the first assault on the key northern city in three months. Deputy Governor Zannah Umar Mustapha of Borno state has indicated that officials now fear that hundreds of female suicide bombers may have entered Maiduguri, effectively using the panic that ensued Wednesday evening as hundreds of insurgents tried to attack Giwa Barracks, which is located on the outskirts of Maiduguri.
In the past twenty-four hours, Boko Haram militants have invaded three towns in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Adamawa and Borno after being ousted from a key town in the area by civilian vigilantes.
Reports surfaced Friday that Boko Haram militants have seized control of the northeastern town of Chibok, which is home to more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the insurgents in April. According to local residents, militants attacked and took control of the town on Thursday evening. Ali Ndume, a senator for Borno state, confirmed that Chibok is now under Boko Haram’s control, adding that security forces posted in the town left the area as the insurgents attacked. The capture of Chibok came hours after the militant group seized control of two other towns in neighbouring Adamawa state.
According to local residents, the Islamist fighters raided the towns of Hong and Gombi, located some 100 kilometres (62.5 miles) from the state capital Yola after they were pushed out of the commercial hub of Mubi, which they seized two weeks ago. Locals in Mubi reported Friday that many of Mubi’s residents have not yet returned to the town over fears that Boko Haram may launch further attacks in a bid to recapture the key town. Mubi, the second largest town in the northeastern Adamawa state, was the biggest town under the militants group’s control and is the first it has lost since August, when Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau declared a caliphate in the seized areas. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that vigilantes reclaimed the town of Maiha on Wednesday after a fierce battle, with scores of insurgents said to have been killed.
Despite apparently losing control of Mubi, which Boko Haram had renamed Madinatul Islam, or “City of Islam in Arabic, the invasion of Hong and Gombi effectively see’s the militant group moving closer to the state capital city, where thousands of residents have taken refuge in recent months. Local residents in Gombi have reported that since taking control of the town, Boko Haram militants have been patrolling the streets and firing heavy weaponry at random, with other locals disclosing that many are either staying indoors or have fled into the bush, adding that militants burnt down the police station, the local government secretariat and the town’s market after they overpowered the local police. In Hong, which is located 20 kilometres away, the police station was also razed, with the militants reportedly raising their black flag outside the home of a retired military general.
Boko Haram is believed to be in control of more than two dozen towns in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. As part of its goal of establishing a hardline caliphate in the region, in recent months Boko Haram has opted to attack and hold towns in the region, a move that was not previously seen in the militant group’s five-year insurgency.
In a new report published Monday, a rights group has indicated that Boko Haram has used kidnapped women and girls on the front lines of its insurgency. The new report comes as news emerged that the militant group is suspected of kidnapping dozens of girls and boys.
Despite Nigerian government claims of a truce with the militant group, on Monday reports emerged that suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped about thirty adolescents in the northeastern region of the country. Local sources have reported that the suspected militants kidnapped boys aged 13 and over and several girls aged 11 and over. According to a local official, at least seventeen people were killed when the village of Mafa, in Borno State, came under attack on Thursday. Nigerian authorities however are blaming the attack on local bandits. The attack on Mafa, which is located 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the state capital Maiduguri, is the latest in a series of assaults carried out by suspected Boko Haram militants. Last week, at least 40 women and girls were seized in neighbouring Adamawa state.
Both kidnappings, along with continued violence in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, have caused doubts over government claims of a ceasefire agreement and deal for the release of 219 schoolgirls held captive since May. Boko Haram has yet to confirm that a ceasefire agreement has been reached.
According to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, the militant group has kidnapped more than 500 women and girls since its insurgency began in 2009, adding that they use the girls and women on the front lines of combat.
The report came to the conclusion after officials outlined testimony from dozens of former hostages who documented the physical and psychological abuses they went through while being held captive. In total, 30 women and girls were interviewed between April 2013 and April 2014, including 12 of the 57 girls who fled shortly after militants raided a school in Chibok, Borno state. The women and girls, who were held from between two days and three months, were either kidnapped from their homes and villages or while working on the land, fetching water or at school. They all described being held in eight different camps believed to be located in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno state and in the Gwoza hills, which separate Nigeria from Cameroon. They described seeing other women and children in the camps, some of them infants while others as old as 65, however they were unable to indicate whether they had also been kidnapped.
While most of the women were made to cook, clean and perform household chores, with some forced to carry stolen goods seized by the insurgents after attacks, others were forced to fight alongside the militants. In one particular testimony, a 19-year-old woman indicated that she was forced to participate in Boko Haram attacks while being held hostage in militant camps for three months in 2013. According to the woman, she “…was told to hold the bullets and lie in the grass while they fought. They came to me for extra bullets as the fight continued during the day.” While a wave of attacks carried out by female suicide bombers across northeastern Nigeria earlier this year prompted speculation that Boko Haram may be changing tactics and using abducted women to carry out deadly attacks, there has been no evidence to prove whether the attackers were kidnap victims who were coerced or volunteers. The report further disclosed that while Boko Haram appears to pick victims arbitrarily, Christians and students were particularly targeted.
Additionally the newly released report discloses that there have been serious failings in the manner in which Nigerian authorities conducted their investigations in the wake of the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok six months ago. The report includes detailed testimonies of several girls who managed to escape captivity, with HRW adding that the police have shown minimal interest in documenting their evidence, and have treated the case as a “low level crime.” According to the HRW’s Africa Director, Daniel Bekele, little is available to help those girls and women who have survived long periods of captivity, adding that survivors have not received adequate support, including mental health and medical after-care upon their release. He further disclosed that while funds have been set up for the Chibok escapees, little support has been provided to other victims.