Tag Archives: Gwoza

Boko Haram Claims Creation of Islamic Caliphate

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In a new video made public on Sunday, Boko Haram’s leader has claimed to have created an Islamic caliphate in a northeastern Nigerian town that was seized by the militant group earlier this month. While the declaration is in line with the militant group’s desire of carving out an Islamic state in Nigeria, the timing of the announcement was likely prompted by the recent attention garnered by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.

In the new 52-minute video, Abubakar Shekau states “thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in the town of Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” adding that Gwoza, in Borno state, now has “nothing to do with Nigeria.” Earlier this month, the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) confirmed reports that Gwoza was under the control of the rebel group. While Boko Haram is now believed to be in control of other areas near Gwoza, in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in northern Borno state and at least one town in neighboring Yobe state, mapping the precise areas that have fallen under the control of the Islamist militants will be nearly impossible as there are few humanitarian workers on the ground in the northeast, travel to the region remains dangerous and there is poor mobile phone coverage.

Links to IS

Boko Haram’s declaration of a caliphate in Nigeria has drawn comparisons with a similar declaration that was made by IS in June. While Boko Haram desires to create an Islamic state, it is believed that this premature declaration is a move to remain relevant in the region and in competition with IS.

Recent gains achieved by IS likely inspired Shekau’s statement, as the militant group has garnered international headlines in recent months by seizing parts of Iraq and Syria in a brutal onslaught. While global focus had initially been placed on Boko Haram’s widely condemned kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April, in recent months, much of that focus has shifted to the territorial ambitions of IS despite Boko Haram continuing to carry out nearly daily attacks in northeastern Nigeria. Furthermore, in the wake of a video released last week depicting the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley, the United States has described IS as the strongest-ever Islamist threat with its “apocalyptic end of days” ideology, a statement that has further taken attention away from the Nigerian-based militant group, which in comparison, is believed to be a modestly-funded uprising that is composed of poor youths with minimal tactical training. Although Boko Haram has carried out a brutal five-year campaign, by evoking a Nigerian caliphate, Shekau is likely attempting to remain relevant and to raise his own profile in the region, rather than submit to like-minded extremists in the Middle East.

While Shekau has on previous occasions expressed support for IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, and has congratulated IS on its advances in Iraq and Syria, this new video shows no indication from Shekau that he was associating himself with Baghdadi. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the two groups have been working together. Instead, it is likely that the Nigerian militant’s latest video is an attempt at reminding regional governments and the West that Boko Haram is as powerful a threat as IS.

Boko Haram’s declaration of an Islamic caliphate is inline with the militant group’s ideology, as it has long voiced a desire to create a strict Islamic state within mainly Muslim northern Nigeria. The timing of the announcement however is directly influenced by IS’ activities. Boko Haram had previously declared that they should overrun the entire country prior to declaring an Islamic republic, a belief that was reflected in the manner in which they expanded their area of activity. In the wake of a state of emergency in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, coupled with the launch of a military offensive, Boko Haram had slowly moved out of the city centers, and into the rural areas of northeastern Nigeria. They have also successfully carried out attacks in Abuja this year and have crossed over the porous border into Cameroon. However in recent weeks, Boko Haram has taken over a number of towns in Borno state, a move that demonstrates a shift from hit-and-run tactics to an apparent holding strategy. It is likely that after watching IS’ gains in Iraq and Syria, and the impact this has had on the group’s global attention, Boko Haram’s plan of achieving its goal are now taking on a more gradual approach.

What remains evident is that Boko Haram is closely monitoring IS operations, its gains, what impact it has on the global stage and how the militant group may be able to benefit. Boko Haram is likely to continue to mirror IS moves in the coming months, continuing to take over areas of northeastern Nigeria and possibly releasing brutal videos similar to those released by IS.

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Nigerian Soldiers Refuse to Deploy to Fight Boko Haram Militants

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Dozens of Nigerian soldiers have refused to deploy for an upcoming offensive against Boko Haram militants, stating that they will not adhere to military orders until the receive better equipment and weaponry.

 On Wednesday, a number of Nigerian troops revealed that they had been ordered to move out of their barracks in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri towards the Gwoza area of Borno state, where the insurgents have reportedly seized parts of the territory. One soldier disclosed, “we have vowed not to move one inch until our superiors provide us with all necessary weapons to effectively confront and dislodge Boko Haram, who have far better arms.” The troops have indicated that they have set up a camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri. While Defence Ministry spokesman Chris Olukolade indicted Wednesday that there was no mutiny in Borno, stating that Nigerian soldiers “are too disciplined and patriotic to indulge in this dangerous offence,” he did not categorically deny that some of the troops had refused to follow military orders, stating only that any such move by soldiers must be “properly tried in a military court” before it can be classified as a mutiny.

Although the Defence Ministry has repeatedly claimed that “no soldier has been sent on any mission without being armed,” over the past several months, a number of Nigerian soldiers have come forward, stating that the ill-equipped forces were being gunned down by Islamist fighters who were equipped with heavy firepower. Some officials and independent experts have backed these accusations, noting that Boko Haram fighters are better armed than Nigerian troops. One such official is Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima, who was fiercely criticized by the military after he made a similar statement in February. Residents in towns raided by the Islamist militants have also reported that the insurgents are often armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons mounted on trucks and that in some cases they have armoured personnel carriers. In contrast, Nigerian soldiers have at times reportedly lacking ammunition for their AK-47 rifles and have been sent out to the bushlands to fight the militants without basic communication equipment.

Earlier this month, several military wives staged a protest at the gate of a military base in Maiduguri in an attempt to stop their husbands from deploying to Gwoza until they were properly equipped. President Goodluck Jonathan recently requested that Nigerian lawmakers approve a US $1 billion foreign loan that would be utilized to upgrade the capacity of the military. While parliament did not vote on the bill, as it was announced a day before summer recess, many see the President’s request as a tact acknowledgement that his military is being out-matched by the militants.

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US Team Deploys to Nigeria as Additional Girls are Kidnapped

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As a team of US experts deploys to Nigeria in a bid to locate more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by Boko Haram militants, news has spread that an additional eleven girls have been kidnapped in the northern region of the country.  News of these latest kidnappings comes just one day after Boko Haram’s leader confirmed the militant group’s involvement and threatened to sell the girls.

On Monday, the leader of Boko Haram confirmed that the militant group was behind the abduction of over 200 girls who were kidnapped three weeks ago in northeaster Nigeria.  In the new 57-minute video released Monday, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau added “I will sell them in the market, by Allah….Allah has instructed me to sell them.  They are his property and I will carry out his instructions.”  In the video, Shekau also notes that the girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.

On the night of 14 April, Boko Haram militants stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno State.  The girls, aged 16 to 18, were forced onto trucks and taken into the remote areas along the border with Cameroon.  Although fifty-three of the girls managed to escape from the militants, according to police officials 223 are still being held.  Unconfirmed sources in Nigeria have indicated that the girls have been taken across the border and into neighbouring countries, including Chad and Cameroon, with some reports indicating that some of the girls had been forced to marry their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of US $12 (£7).

On Tuesday, residents reported that suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped eleven more girls from Nigeria’s embattled north eastern region.  According to one eyewitness, the militants arrived in two trucks and “…moved door to door looking for girls,” adding that “they forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.”  Another eyewitness reported that the militants also seized animals and food from the village. According to a local government official, “after leaving Warabe the gunmen stormed the Wala village which is five kilometres away and abducted three more girls.”   The latest kidnappings occurred late Sunday in the villages of Warabe and Wala, which are located in the Gwoza area of Borno State.  Due to poor communication in the area, details of the latest kidnappings did not emerge until Tuesday.  The area around the two villages is known to be a stronghold of the militant group.

While Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency in northern Nigeria has over the past year intensified, the attack and kidnapping of the girls has shocked Nigerians and has resulted in an international outcry for their safe return.  Since the launch of military operations in three northern states last May, Boko Haram, which continues to be the main security threat in the country and regionally, has grown bolder in its attacks and has extended its reach.   The April 14 kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed seventy-five people near Abuja, the first attack to be carried out in the capital city in two years.  More than two weeks later, the militants, who say they are fighting to create an Islamic state, carried out a second bomb attack, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.

The girl’s abduction has been a huge embarrassment for the government, which has failed to locate them, while Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has been under increasing pressure to act against the militant group.  The latest incidents will likely overshadow the country’s first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa, which is set to take place on May 7 – 9 in Abuja.

US Deployment

In the wake of increasing frustration over the Nigerian government’s failure to locate the 223 missing schoolgirls, the United States has accepted an offer to aid in the search.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama confirmed the deployment of a team of US experts, stating that the group is comprised of personnel from the military, law enforcement and other agencies, adding that he hopes the kidnapping may galvanise the international community to take action against Boko Haram.  US Secretary of State John Kerry also indicated Tuesday that Washington will set up a co-ordination cell at its embassy in Abuja which will include US military personnel, law enforcement officials and experts in hostage situations.

While US officials have stated that the first group of abducted girls, who are aged between 16 and 18, may have already been smuggled over Nigeria’s porous borders into countries such as Chad and Cameroon, officials from the two neighbouring states have indicated that at this time they do not believe the girls are in their countries.

The United Kingdom has also offered to help Nigerian authorities in their search.  On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the UK would assist the Nigerian government if they received such a request however what form the assistance would take was not specified by Hague.

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