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.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group has announced that its West African affiliate, Nigerian-based Boko Haram, has a new leader.
Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who was previously a spokesman for the Nigerian-based militant group, has ben featured in the latest issue of an IS magazine, which makes no reference to Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader since 2009. However just a day later after the announcement, Shekau maintained that he is still the leader of Boko Haram, rejecting a successor who was announced just hours earlier by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and effectively exposing the biggest rift yet amongst Nigeria’s deadly Islamic insurgents. An audio speech purporting to be from Shekau criticized al-Barnawi and said that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not respond to several letters from Shekau explaining that al-Barnawi is “an infidel” preaching “false creeds.” Shekau called the announcement “a coup,” adding “today I woke up to see one who is an infidel whom they want me to follow. No I wont…We cannot subject ourselves to people who are in ignorance of all holy books and teachings.” He also highlighted ideological differences with al-Barnawi, who promised in an interview that was published on Wednesday in IS newspaper al-Nabaa to end attacks on mosques and markets frequented by Muslims. Such attacks have been a hallmark of Boko Haram under Shekau, who has led the group since 2009. Shekau’s declaration could effectively pave the way for a break from IS and Boko Haram’s possible return to the influence of al-Qaeda. It could also cause insurgent rivals to turn their guns on each other.
Boko Haram, which is fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government, has lost most of the territory it controlled 18 months ago, effectively forcing the militant group to change its tactics and to launch hit-and-run attacks in northeastern Nigeria, as well as in neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin, including Chad and Cameroon. Its seven-year insurgency has left 20,000 people deadly, mainly in the northeast of Nigeria, and has displaced thousands more. Shekau took over as the group’s leader after its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in Nigerian police custody in July 2009. Under his leadership, Boko Haram became more radical – carrying out more brutal attacks and killings. It swore allegiance to IS in March 2015. In numerous videos, Shekau taunted the Nigerian authorities, and celebrated the group’s violent attacks, including the April 2014 abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria’s army has claimed on several occasions to have killed him.
On 13 May, the United Nations Security Council disclosed that it is alarmed by Boko Haram’s ties to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, adding that it is throwing its support behind a Nigerian-led regional summit to confront the threat.
In a statement, the 15-member Council disclosed that it welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s “crucial initiative” to hold the Summit on 14 May, which will be attended by regional leaders as well as French President Francois Hollande. It adds that the summit should help develop “a comprehensive strategy to address the governance, security, development, socio-economic and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis.” The Council also expressed “alarm at Boko Haram’s linkages with the Islamic State” and voiced “deep concern that the activities of Boko Haram continue to undermine the peace and stability of the West and Central African region.” Last year, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to IS and Nigerians have ben reportedly fighting in lawless Libya. The group also has ties with al-Qaeda-linked groups that operate in the wider Sahel region. The Council also renewed its call for regional countries Cameroon, Chad and Niger in a multinational joint task force to “further enhance regional military cooperation and coordination” to root out Boko Haram. It also demanded that Boko Haram “immediately and unequivocally cease all violence and all abuses of human rights” and “release all those abducted” including the 219 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014.
The Council statement was drafted by the United States as a show of support for President Buhari on the eve of the meeting.
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.
Nigeria’s Government on Friday disclosed that it is “outraged and deeply saddened” after militants attacked a remote village in northeastern Nigeria and reportedly kidnapped around 200 people. While no group has claimed responsibility, the attack bore resemblance to past attacks carried out by Boko Haram militants, who abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, which is located 24 kilometres (15 miles) from this latest incident.
Boko Haram militants have kidnapped at least 185 people, including women and children, from a Nigerian village, with local sources reporting that civilians were forced away on trucks towards Sambisa Forest, which is known to be one of Boko Haram’s strongholds. The mass abduction, which was part of an attack that also killed thirty-two people, occurred Sunday in the village of Gumsuri, Borno state. While officials have not confirmed the number of those kidnapped, local sources have reported that the number is likely to increase in the coming days and weeks as many civilians return after having fled the area during the attack.
Details of the attack took four days to emerge as the mobile phone network in the region has completely collapsed and many roads are impassable. News emerged Thursday as many of the survivors reached the city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Two local officials and a vigilante leader also confirmed the attack, stating that the local government had established the number of those abducted by contacting families. Late on Thursday, government spokesman Mike Omeri released a statement, condemning the “deplorable act,” adding that it was currently “…impossible to verify the number of those missing at this early stage because it is presumed that many civilians fled during the attack.”
Gumsuri is located roughly 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Maiduguri and is located on the road that leads to Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. Boko Haram has been increasingly using kidnappings to boost its supply of child fighters, protesters and young women. It is believed that the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok are now being forced to carryout suicide bombings across northeastern Nigeria. In recent month, a number of deadly attacks have been carried out young female suicide bombers. The mass abductions in Chibok brought unprecedented attention to Boko Haram’s five-year uprising. Despite President Goodluck Jonathan vowing to end the conflict, the violence has escalated since April and Sunday’s attack in Gumsuri will likely cast further doubt on Nigeria’s ability to contain the crisis.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Cameroon, officials disclosed Thursday that troops have killed 116 Nigerian Boko Haram fighters in the far north. According to the defence ministry, insurgents attacked an army base in Amchide, which lies on the border with Nigeria, on Wednesday but were repelled by soldiers. Sources have reported that Boko Haram sustained heavy losses during the attack.
A statement released by the Cameroonian army disclosed “a column made up of a military truck and four pick-ups from the BIR (elite Rapid Intervention Battalion) were caught in an ambush that began with an explosion of a roadside bomb,” adding “at the same time… the Amchide military base was attacked by hundreds of fighters from the sect, but the response from our defence forces was instant and appropriate.” The statement further indicated, “there are 116 of the assailants dead on Cameroonian territory and undetermined casualties on the Nigerian territory from our artillery fire…there is one dead on the Cameroonian side and one officer missing.” According to the Cameroonian army, Boko Haram fighters destroyed a pick-up and a troop truck and managed to capture another military truck.
Boko Haram has increasingly threatened the northern region of Cameroon. While in the past, the militants have carried out repeated massacres of civilians and have attacked villages near the border with Nigeria, the militant group now appears to be increasingly targeting the military. It is believed that Boko Haram is seeking to replenish its military supplies in a bid to maintain power over the current towns and villages under its control and to seize further territory in northeastern Nigeria.