Tag Archives: Joint Task Force

Nigeria’s Launches Second Cellphone Blackout Amidst an Increase of Boko Haram Attacks

Posted on in Nigeria title_rule

On Wednesday, officials in Nigeria re-imposed a telephone blackout on a number of areas within the country’s north-eastern Borno state, the base of Boko Haram militants who have over the past few months intensified their attacks, which have claimed scores of lives.

According to army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Dole, “GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) services have been seized in Borno again and this is one of the sacrifices that people have to make,” adding that “there is an on going operation and we want to get it right.  We are hopeful GSM services would be restored.”  Although no further details were provided, Col. Dole noted “in the on going operation we have reached a stage whereby the cooperation of everybody is necessary in order to subdue the common enemy.”  Residents confirmed the cell phone black out, with most people waking up on Wednesday and finding that they could not longer make calls on their mobiles.  Some residents in Maiduguri, Borno’s state capital, indicated Wednesday that if the phone blackout would restore law and order, then they backed the move, however some are doubting whether or not the military would achieve this desire goal.  One local resident stated “when they seized the GSM network last year, the terrorists were not perturbed, they kept killing people.  GSM services were only restored when the terrorists attacked military bases in December.”

Phone services were initially frozen last May until December in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe after the government imposed a state of emergency.

While speaking to reporters, Col. Dole also thanked the youth vigilantes, also known as civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) for their “unprecedented support to the military” in the on-going offensive against Islamists.

Despite an enhanced military presence in the northern region of Nigeria, since last May, more than 1,000 people have been killed.   Violence by Boko Haram militants have been raging in Nigeria since 2009, and has claimed thousands of lives however in recent weeks, the militant group’s campaign has been particularly ferocious, with some 500 people killed in suspected Islamist attacks since the start of the year.  Worst hit by the attacks are villages in remote and rural areas near Borno’s border with Cameroon.

Meanwhile officials and eyewitnesses in Katsina have reported that at least sixty-nine people have been killed in attacks on villages located in the northwestern state.  Reports have indicated that the attacks occurred Wednesday.

Witnesses reported Thursday that attackers rode motorcycles into villages in broad daylight and killed whomever they found.   While this attacks is just the latest incident to hit northern Nigeria, police officials in the state have indicated that the attack is not linked to Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which is mainly active further east in Borno, but instead appears to have been carried out by ethnic Fulani cattle herders who have a history of tension with local farmers.  According to state police chief Hurdi Mohammed, “the victims include men, women and children.  Rescue teams are still combing nearby bushes to search for more bodies.  Local MP Abdullahi Abbas Machika indicated that forty-seven people were buried in one village alone in Katsina state after Wednesday’s attack.

The attack in Katsina state comes as President Goodluck Jonathan visits the state to commission some government projects.

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Doubts Emerge Over Death of Boko Haram Leader

Posted on in Africa, Nigeria title_rule

Doubts have emerged this week over the Nigerian military’s claims that the leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram may have been killed.  Questions have been raised over the timing of the announcement, which came on the day that the Joint Task Force (JTF) concluded its work and handed over its duties to a newly created military division that has been charged with the battle to end Boko Haram’s four-year insurgency.

On Monday, a security task force in north-eastern Nigeria issued a statement indicating that Abubakar Shekau, who was declared a “global terrorist” by the United States, “may have died” from a gunshot wound after a clash with soldiers on Jun 30.”  The statement further noted that “it is greatly believed that Shekau may have died between 25 July to 3 August 2013” after being taken over the border into Amitchide in neighboring Cameroon.  The statement also indicated that an intelligence report suggests that Shekau was shot when soldiers raided a Boko Haram base at Sambisa Forest in north-eastern Nigeria.

However by Tuesday, local media reported that there had been increasing unease within the military pertaining to the claims.  Task force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa declined to comment when contacted about the statement, indicating only that he had left Maiduguri, which is the epicentre of Boko Haram’s insurgency and where the force was based.  National defence spokesman Brigadier General Chris Olukolade has also distanced himself from the statement.  Some sources have indicated that senior members within the military were unhappy with the release of the statement as there was not yet enough evidence to make such claims and that intelligence was still being analyzed.

Claims of Shekau’s death come one week after the Nigerian military stated that on 14 August, it had killed Boko Haram’s second-in-comment, Momodu Bama, also known by his alias “Abu Saad.”  However so far, there have been confirmations relating to his death.  In turn, a video message released on 12 August depicted a man who appeared to be Shekau, who insisted that he was in good health.  He had also referred to attacks which had occurred in early August.  The military statement released on Monday however has specified that the video was a fake.  So far there have been no independent confirmations pertaining to this video.

Washington’s response to these latest claims have come with the US State Department stating that it had seen the reports pertaining to Shekau and that it was currently “working to ascertain the facts,” nothing that he had already been falsely reported dead in 2009.  US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf added that “he is the most visible leader of Boko Haram, and if his death turns out to be true, the loss of such a central and well-known figure would set back Boko Haram’s operations and remove a key voice from its efforts to mobilize violent extremists in Nigeria and around the world.”

Shekau has been considered the leader of Boko Haram ever since the terrorist group’s founder Muhammad Yusuf, died in 2009 while in police custody.  Since taking over, the terrorist group’s insurgency has seen a violent turn, with thousands being killed in attacks that have been carried out on school children, teachers the UN, the police, north-eastern traditional leaders, journalists, mobile phone towers and ordinary Nigerians going about their lives.  In March of this year, the United States placed a US $7 million (5.3 million euro) bounty on his head.  If these most recent claims of Abubakar Shekau’s death are confirmed, his passing will likely represent a significant moment in the future of the terrorist group, however it is unlikely that Boko Haram will end its violence in the northern regions of the Nigeria.  Instead, this may fuel further retaliatory attacks that will likely target political and security officials along with military bases.  Furthermore, the group has a number of factions, such as al-Qaeda-linked Ansaru, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of a number of Westerners.  Such factions are believed to operate independently and any confirmations of Shekau’s death will likely result in retaliatory kidnappings and attacks that will be linked to his death.




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