Nigeria: Boko Haram Will Be Back

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June 12, 2013: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, police and troops have allowed the formation of local vigilante groups to help in the hunt for Boko Haram members. These volunteers collect information on where suspected Boko Haram members are and, if the suspects are unarmed, seize and bring them to the police. Civilians don’t want armed Boko Haram men in their neighborhoods because when the soldiers come looking for Islamic terrorists and encounter resistance the entire area gets shot up, including any civilians who could not take cover. The vigilantes aren’t pro-government as much as they are seeking to survive all this.

In the last four weeks the offensive against Boko Haram has led to hundreds of arrests in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa (where a state of emergency still applies). Most of those arrested did prove to have a Boko Haram connection and the army is getting a better idea of the extent of the Islamic terrorist network in the area. Boko Haram has lost about a third of its strength in the area to death, desertion, and capture. But potential recruits are still available because the government isn’t doing much about the problems (corruption, inept government) that led to the growth of Boko Haram in the first place.

All that activity has caused over 6,000 civilians to flee across the nearby border into Niger and lesser numbers into Chad and Cameroon. The soldiers in particular have a reputation for shooting everyone in sight if they encounter resistance. Best to run before that happens to you. The three states comprise 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) and border Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Some civilians, and Boko Haram members (and their families), have crossed the border and police in those countries have a difficult time preventing it. Much of this area is semi-desert and thinly populated. Boko Haram still controls some rural villages and the security forces have a list of such places they must eventually visit. In the opening days of the campaign the air force bombed known Boko Haram camps out in the desert, and many survivors of those attacks fled across the border.

Cell phone networks remain shut down in the northeast. Two weeks without cell phones has put the terrorists at a big disadvantage because the army and police have their own radios, as well as the ability to listen in to Boko Haram using commercial walkie talkies. Eventually the cell phones will be turned back on, if only to alleviate the economic damage the lack of phones is causing.  

June 8, 2013: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, police and troops killed at least 16 Boko Haram men in the last two days. The government accused Boko Haram gunmen of killing 13 civilians in that time, although locals said that civilian deaths were higher and many were killed by the security forces. There were some very loud gun battles recently, usually in residential areas. The security forces are searching known Boko Haram controlled neighborhoods for Boko Haram members and their supplies of weapons, explosives, and equipment. The roads out of town are heavily guarded, so if any Boko Haram are escaping they are doing it with very little of their gear. Even within Maiduguri there are a lot of checkpoints, making it difficult for armed men to travel.

June 7, 2013: In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a group of Boko Haram men sought to attack the headquarters of an anti-terrorist vigilante group by staging a fake funeral. They had a coffin full of weapons in the back of a pickup truck. When they arrived at their destination the Islamic terrorists grabbed their weapons from the coffin and began shooting at civilians. Soldiers quickly responded and eight of the ten Boko Haram died fighting. Soldiers then moved into the neighborhood the “funeral truck” had come from and that triggered more gun battles.

June 6, 2013: The army believes it killed a Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Adam Kambar, fifteen months ago. Kambar is one of three Boko Haram leaders the U.S. identified as international terrorists a year ago. The delay in this announcement was not explained.

In the south police arrested Jackson Fabouwei, the man suspected of planning an April attack in the Niger Delta that killed 11 policemen. Fabouwei is also suspected of stealing money meant for former rebels as part of the 2009 amnesty in the Niger Delta oil producing region.

June 3, 2013: The June 1st attack on the main prison in the capital of neighboring Niger was apparently a success after all, with at least 22 prisoners getting away. Several Boko Haram men were held prisoner there and Boko Haram was believed involved in the attack. Two prison guards, and several of the attackers, were killed during the fighting.

The U.S. announced $23 million dollars in rewards for senior al Qaeda and Boko Haram leaders in Africa. 

 

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