On 8 January, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stated that he was hopeful that the remaining 195 Chibok schoolgirls will be rescued, as the country marked 1,000 days since the mass abduction by Boko Haram that drew global attention to the jihadist insurgency.
President Buhari stated that his government was committed to finding the rest of the more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted almost three years ago from the northeastern town of Chibok. Since being seized in April 2014, only two dozen have been found or rescued, some of whom had babies in captivity.
Earlier this month, the Nigerian army reported that it had rescued another Chibok girls, Rakiya Abubkar, along with her six-month-old baby. Another two schoolgirls have been found in the past year by troops and in October, 21 Chibok girls were released by Boko Haram after negotiations with the Nigerian government brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss government. The release was hailed as a breakthrough that would lead to the recovery of the remaining girls in captivity. At the time, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu disclosed that the Nigerian government was hoping to secure the release of 83 other girls, however there has since been no update on those negotiations.
Timeline of Chibok Kidnapping
- April 2014 – Boko Haram militants kidnap 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, a region where the insurgency emerged several years ago.
- November 2014 – Extremists seize Chibok and the Nigerian army takes back the town.
- May 2015 – Newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari is sworn into office, pledging to tackle Boko Haram “head-on.”
- 13 April 2016 – Boko Haram video appears to depict some of the Chibok girls, with mothers recognizing their daughters.
- 18 May 2016 – A relative discloses that one of the Chibok girls is found, pregnant, in a forest. Pressure increases on the Nigerian government to rescue the remaining missing girls.
- 14 August 2016 – Boko Haram video states that some of the Chibok girls have been killed in airstrikes. The militant group demands the release of extremists in exchange for the other girls’ freedom.
- 13 October 2016 – Spokesman for Nigeria’s president confirms that 21 Chibok schoolgirls have ben freed as a result of government negotiations with Boko Haram
- 5 November 2016 – Nigerian military announces the first army rescue of a Chibok girl, during a raid on a forest hideout.
- 24 December 2016 – Nigeria’s president declares that Boko Haram has been crushed as the militant group is driven from its last forest hideout.
- 5 January 2017 – Nigeria’s army states that soldiers have found one of the schoolgirls wandering in the bush near the forest stronghold.
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.
As President Muhammadu Buhari marked his first week in office, the death toll from two blasts in northeastern Nigeria climbed to 35 on Friday, raising the total number killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks to 82.
This week’s violence comes as President Buhari embarked on his first foreign trip since taking office, visiting neighbouring Chad and Niger, which along with Cameroon, are Nigeria’s key allies in the battle against Boko Haram’s on going uprising. During his trip, Buhari urged closer regional security cooperation, while thanking troops from Nigeria’s neighbours for their efforts to date. The newly elected Nigerian president has vowed to crush the militant group, however last weeks spate of bombings has highlighted the severity of the challenge.
Two blasts rocked northeastern Nigeria on Thursday, killing at least six people, just hours before President Muhammadu Buhari urged closer regional cooperation to defeat Boko Haram. According to officials, the first explosion occurred in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, which has been hit by a spate of bombings in recent days. The incident occurred when a truck carrying firewood rammed into a checkpoint outside a military barracks. Police and locals have reported that at least four soldiers were killed in this explosion, which one resident called a “suicide attack.” The second blast occurred at a busy market in Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state. At least two people were killed in the second incident and some 30 others were injured. While there was no claim of responsibility, both incidents will likely be blamed on Boko Haram. Just hours before these latest attacks, President Buhari arrived in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby on tackling Boko Haram. According to a statement from the office of the Chadian President, Deby has “reaffirmed Chad’s involvement and availability” to work with Nigeria.
At least eleven people were killed Wednesday in an explosion in Maiduguri. According to Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante assisting that military against Boko Haram in the Baga Road area, “we have so far recovered six dead bodies. We are still working at the scene, so the casualties may rise.” Ajaokuta indicated that the blast, which occurred at 5:30 PM (1630 GMT), happened at a garage opposite a military unit and it appeared to have been caused by explosives that were left nearby. Since last Friday, Maiduguri, which has been a regular target for Boko Haram Islamists, has been hit four times.
On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram militants launched a renewed attack on Maiduguri, just days after the military repelled an assault on the key city. At least thirteen people were killed Tuesday in a suicide attack at a busy cattle market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. According to Red Cross officials and locals, the blast in the Borno state capital occurred at around 1:00PM (1200 GMT) as traders were wrapping up business for the day. The northeast spokesman of the Nigerian Red Cross, Umar Sadiq, indicated that there were 13 dead and 24 injured who were taken to two city hospitals for treatment. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack, it bore the hallmarks of the group, with one official indicated that the victims were “carefully targeted,” adding “the bomber chose the most crowded part of the market and set off his bombs.” The attack came after Boko Haram militants again targeted Maiduguri with rocket-propelled grenades in the early hours of Tuesday after hitting the city in a similar attack on Saturday. Residents reported that the militants arrived in the Moronti area of the city by river during the early hours of Tuesday however they were unable to advance further because of wide ditches and embankments that were dug by soldiers around the city limits. According to locals, the militants then began shelling Ajillari Cross, which is located about three kilometres (2 miles) away. One local stated, “we were bombarded by RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenades) by Boko Haram from Moronti…We all left our homes for fear of being hit inside. It was dark so we could see the trajectory of the RPG’s, which were red with heat… Soon afterwards, we saw troops in trucks moving towards Moronti and then a fighter jet also deployed not long afterwards.”
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.