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Boko Haram deadline ‘a guide’, says Buhari

(By AFP, December 7, 2015)

Military operations against Boko Haram could be extended,  President Muhammadu Buhari indicated on Monday, as a government deadline approaches for the end to conflict.
Buhari in August gave his military commanders until the end of the year to stop the insurgency but with just weeks left there has been no let-up in violence in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
In a message sent to army top brass meeting in the northern state of Jigawa, and read out by chief of defence staff General Abayomi Olonisakin, the head of state said the self-imposed December 31 deadline was only “a guide”.
It read: “Let me emphasise that the timeframe should serve as a guide and if exigency of multiple operations across the country advises a modification, the federal government will not hesitate to do so in order to address new flashpoints that are rearing their ugly heads in some parts of the country.”
The statement will likely be seized upon by Buhari’s opponents as backpedalling, with suicide and bomb attacks still prevalent in the northeast.
Last month, even senior military, security and intelligence figures, from the research and advisory body the Centre for Crisis Communication, said the deadline was “unrealistic”.
Security analysts say the military counter-insurgency has been effective in pushing the Islamists out of captured territory and reducing the group’s capability to attack.
But there have still been sporadic deadly raids in the region, as well as attacks in northern Cameroon, southeastern Niger and on the Chadian side of Lake Chad, where all four countries meet.
On Saturday, at least 27 people were killed and more than 80 wounded when three suicide bombers struck on an island on Lake Chad.
Buhari, a retired army general and former military ruler, told AFP in an interview in September he expected an end to “the main conventional attacks” by the deadline.
“What may not absolutely stop is the occasional bombings by the use of improvised explosive devices. We do not expect a 100 percent stoppage of the insurgency,” he added.

Boko Haram has a new commander who is willing to negotiate - 13th August 2015

 (AP) — Boko Haram has a new commander willing to negotiate with Nigeria's new government, Chad's President Idriss Deby announced Wednesday, fueling speculation the extremist group's previous commander has been killed.

Rumors of the death of Abubakar Shekau have grown since the leader has not appeared for months in videos broadcast by Nigeria's homegrown Islamic militant group.

"There is somebody apparently called Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau, and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government," Deby said in comments broadcast by Chad state radio. He did not say where the information came from.

"I would not advise negotiating with a terrorist," said Deby, though he himself led one failed attempt last year. Other attempts under Nigeria's previous government also failed, partly because the group is believed fractured into several factions.

Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari has said his government is open to talks, but also would pursue the military option.

Deby said a five-nation regional army based in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, would be deployed in days and predicted it would destroy Boko Haram by year's end. He said the group already has been "decapitated."

Chadian troops earlier this year helped drive the insurgents out of northeastern Nigerian towns where they had declared an "Islamic caliphate" and prosecuted strict Shariah law. But hundreds have died in suicide bombings and village attacks in recent months. The 6-year-old Islamic uprising has killed 20,000 people and spilled across Nigeria's borders.

On Tuesday, a bomb blast in a northeastern Nigerian village killed at least 24 people and Cameroonian troops repelled an invasion on a border town by hundreds of Boko Haram fighters who crossed the border.

Suicide bombings in Chad killed dozens in three attacks in June and July on the capital, N'Djamena.

Nigeria: troops rescue 178 people, destroy extremist camps - 3rd August 2015

LAGOS (AP) — Nigerian troops rescued 178 people from Boko Haram in attacks that destroyed several camps of the Islamic extremists in the northeast of the country, an army statement said Sunday.

Spokesman Col. Tukur Gusau said that 101 of those freed are children, along with 67 women and 10 men.

The Nigerian Air Force reported killing "a large number" of militants in repelling an attack on Bitta village, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the army operations that took place around Bama, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Maiduguri city. Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and the capital of northeastern Borno state.

Sunday's statements did not specify when the attacks occurred.

Last week the army rescued 71 kidnapped people.

Hundreds have been freed from Boko Haram captivity this year but none of the 219 girls abducted in April 2014 from a school in Chibok were among the rescued.

The extremists distributed a new video on Twitter on Sunday purporting to show attacks on Nigerian army barracks in the states of Borno and Yobe. The video also shows the beheading of a man in military fatigues said to be a Nigerian soldier.

According to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, an unidentified fighter, shown in the video with looted army weapons and ammunition, says the footage shows Nigeria's military has not forced Boko Haram from its positions and got them hemmed into the Sambisa Forest, as the military has claimed.

Some of those rescued last week said they had been held by Boko Haram for up to one year in villages just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri.

 Nigerian soldiers rescue 71 people from Boko Haram - 31st July 2015

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian soldiers rescued 71 people, almost all girls and women, in firefights that killed many Boko Haram militants in villages near the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the military said Thursday.

Some captives told The Associated Press they were in the clutches of the Islamic extremists for as long as a year.

"I was waiting for death ... they often threatened to kill us," said Yagana Kyari, a woman in her 20s who said she had been kidnapped from her village of Kawuri and taken to a militant camp in Walimberi, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Kyari said they often went hungry because the extremists never provided enough food.

"Our gallants troops have rescued a total number of 59 civilians in two camps of the terrorist group," army spokesman Col. I.T. Gusau said. "Many of the terrorists were killed in the course of the operations, but mop up is still going on."

The 59, all women and children except for five elderly men, were freed on Thursday, he said. Another 12 women and girls were rescued Wednesday from Kilakisa, 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Maiduguri, he said.

The military has said hundreds of captives were freed in March when they declared they had seized back all towns held by Boko Haram, which last year had declared an Islamic caliphate in a large swath of the northeast.

But attacks have increased in recent weeks, with hundreds killing in suicide bombings and village assaults.

At least two women and girl suicide bombers this month were said to have come from the area where those freed this week were held. It is feared Boko Haram is turning its captives into weapons.


 12th July 2015 -General Buhari sacks Nigeria's military chiefs as fight against Boko Haram is stepped up

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has sacked his army, navy, air force and defence chiefs in a move widely anticipated as the former general has made crushing Boko Haram his top priority.

A spokesman for the presidency said replacements would be announced later on Monday.

Since his inaugration in May, Buhari has moved Nigeria’s defence command centre to Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, and is setting up the headquarters for a multinational joint taskforce in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

The country’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, was heavily criticised for his inability to deal with the six-year insurgency in the north-east of Africa’s biggest oil producer, which has killed as many as 13,000 and displaced 1.5 million people.

Army morale hit an all-time low under Jonathan and it was not until the start of 2015 that the militants were finally pushed out of most areas with the help of foreign mercenaries, troops from neighbouring countries and new equipment.
But Nigerians saw Jonathan’s victories as too little, too late.

The spokesman named the sacked officers as Air Marshal Alex Badeh, Maj Gen Kenneth Minimah, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu.


 12th June 2015 - Nigeria and its neighbours agree to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram

Nigeria and its neighbours agreed on 11th  June to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram, a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari's intent to crush the Islamist militant group during his tenure.

At a one-day summit at Abuja airport, the 72-year-old former military ruler, who was inaugurated just two weeks ago, welcomed the leaders of Chad, Niger and Benin, and the defence minister of Cameroon.

Aliyu Ismail, the permanent secretary of Nigeria's minister of defence, said the joint force, based in the Chad capital N'Djamena, will be running by 30 July.

"The heads of state and government of Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin Republic took the following decisions: approve the concepts of operations, strategic and operational and related documents of the multinational joint task force for the fight against Boko Haram terrorist groups; approve the immediate deployment of the multinational joint task force headquarters at N'Djamena, Chad, by implementing its human, logistics and financial requirements; approve the development of the national contingent with the multinational joint task force under the operational command of the multinational joint task force commander assisted by his joint headquarters by 30 July, 2015," Ismail told a news conference in Abuja.

The joint force will have a permanent Nigerian leader, a concession to Buhari's opposition to rotating commanders.

Changing the force's leadership would hamper "the military capacity to sustain the push against the insurgents, who also have the uncanny ability to adapt and rejig their operational strategies," Buhari said before the meeting.

Chad and Cameroon have deputy commander and chief of staff posts in the force, whose mission is to crush Boko Haram, which has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people in its six-year fight to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria's north east.

"Our commanders, mainly Nigerian commanders, have been accused of ill treating Boko Haram. The context of Boko Haram killing tens of thousands of Nigerians was not an issue, but the issue is that Nigerian commanders have allowed their troops to maybe kill some Boko Harams or ill treated them while they were in camps. I believe the military hierarchy is investigating the case, since the allegation is made by the Human Rights Commission," said Buhari.

Squashing the insurgency was one of Buhari's main campaign promises, in contrast to his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, who was accused of dithering and incompetence, particularly after the kidnapping of more than 200 girls from a school in the town of Chibok in April last year.

In his two weeks since assuming office, Buhari has focused on little else, travelling to Niger and Chad and shifting the military command centre from Abuja to Maiduguri, the capital of north-east Borno state and birthplace of the insurgency.  IB Times


30 May 2015: General Buhari pledges fight against Boko Haram

(AP) — Nigeria's new president was sworn in on Friday and pledged to tackle Boko Haram "head on," asserting the fight against the Islamic extremists wouldn't be won until hundreds of schoolgirls abducted last year and other kidnapping victims were brought home alive.

Muhammadu Buhari's new administration won a signal of support from the United States, which indicated it was prepared to increase military aid.

The inauguration turned into a nationwide celebration by Nigerians welcoming their country's newly reinforced democracy after Buhari became the first candidate to defeat a sitting president at the polls since the end of military rule in 1999.

With dancing and the release of white doves symbolizing peace, Nigerians hailed the handover of power in an African nation marked by superlatives: the most populous nation, the biggest oil producer, the largest economy.

Nigeria also confronts the most deadly conflict on the continent — the insurgency by Boko Haram that has killed more than 13,000 people and driven more than 1.5 million from their homes.

Blaming official bungling, negligence, complacency and collusion for allowing the Islamic extremists to grow into "a terrifying force," Buhari pledged to take on Nigeria's myriad problems. "We are going to tackle them head on," he declared.

"But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents," he said, referring to the hundreds of girls seized more than a year ago from their school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state.

"This government will do all it can to rescue them alive."

The military has freed hundreds of captured women and children in recent weeks as it hemmed Boko Haram into its stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, but there has been no word of the schoolgirls whose abduction brought an international outcry.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was the first foreign official to meet with Nigeria's new leader after the inauguration, accompanied by head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. David M. Rodriguez. A senior State Department official said Washington was ready to increase military aid and could quickly send more advisers.

"Congratulations to @MBuhari & the Nigerian people. A privilege to be here to celebrate #Nigeria's historic & peaceful democratic transition," Kerry tweeted.

The 72-year-old Buhari had earlier pledged to root out human rights violations by the Nigerian military — abuses that had prevented full military cooperation from the U.S. and Britain.

Departing President Goodluck Jonathan last year halted U.S. training of a battalion of Nigerian troops to fight Boko Haram. No reason was given but his officials had expressed anger at U.S. refusals to sell Nigeria weapons, including helicopter gunships.

The United States and former colonizer Britain were hindered by laws preventing certain weapons sales to countries whose militaries are accused of gross human rights violations. Nigeria's military is accused of killing detainees and civilians and burning their homes in revenge for Boko Haram attacks.

Buhari addressed those concerns Friday, promising to overhaul rules of engagement to prevent abuses and to take "disciplinary steps" against violators of human rights.


30 May 2015: Nigerian troops repel Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri

Nigeria’s military has repelled a Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri, a day after the country’s new president vowed to strengthen the defences of the key north-eastern city that was the birthplace of the militant group.
The Islamists’ assault on the Borno state capital saw rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) fired into homes, witnesses and security sources said. It came after Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration, where he promised a new command and control centre to better coordinate the counter-insurgency effort in the region.
Shortly after midnight (2300 GMT Friday), residents in the Dala suburb south of the city woke to the sound of RPGs being fired in succession, said resident Modu Karumi, in an account supported by several others.
Witnesses said hundreds of Islamist gunmen were trying to advance on the city, which is now home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by unrest in other parts of Borno state.
An AFP reporter who lives in the area said he heard what sounded like armoured personnel carriers deploying to the southern edge of Maiduguri to face the rebel advance.
Dala resident Alhaji Bukar said he saw at least one RPG fall into a private home, but details on casualties were not immediately clear.
Locals reported other residential homes being hit.
Three senior security sources in Maiduguri who were not authorised to speak publicly said the attack had been repelled.
“All is under control. There is no cause for alarm,” one of those sources said. The sound of RPGs and gunfire had also quietened, residents said.

Experts doubt that Boko Haram currently has the capacity to seize Maiduguri, but a major attack inside the city would be likely to be disastrous for civilians.
The Islamist rebels have been flushed out of several Borno state towns they controlled, in an offensive launched in February by Nigeria with backing from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
But there are signs of the militants regrouping, particularly in the remote parts of eastern Borno near the Cameroon border.

02 May 2015   The Nigerian Army says its troops have rescued 234 captives

Some of whom are pregnant. This is part of assault on rebel stronghold that has already liberated 500

Nigerian troops have freed another 234 women and children from Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest, the military said. The defence headquarters said the hostages were rescued on Thursday through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the forest. About 500 women and children have already been rescued in the past few days.
“They have been evacuated to join others at the place of ongoing screening,” the military said. It also said: “the assault on the forest is continuing from various fronts and efforts are concentrated on rescuing hostages of civilians and destroying all terrorist camps and facilities in the forest”.
The military had pledged to free more hostages from the Islamists after hundreds were rescued this week.
The military announced on Thursday about 160 hostages had been rescued from Sambisa in addition to 200 girls and 93 women freed on Tuesday. The numbers underlined the scale of the tactic of mass abduction used by Boko Haram, which according to Amnesty International has seized about 2,000 women and girls since the start of last year.
Female former hostages have described being subjected to forced labour and sexual and psychological abuse as well as sometimes having to fight on the frontline alongside the rebels. Some of the freed women and girls are pregnant, Muhammad Gavi, a spokesman for a self-defense group that fights Boko Haram, said citing information from group members who have seen the females.

Amnesty International called on authorities “to ensure that the trauma of those ‘rescued’ is not exacerbated by lengthy security screening in detention”. The military had released photographs apparently showing some of the rescued women and children in an undisclosed location, huddled on the ground watched over by soldiers.
It was still not clear if any of the 219 girls snatched in April 2014 from their school in the north-eastern town of Chibok were among the freed hostages.The military said they were still screening the freed hostages with a view to establishing their identities.
The mass kidnapping in Chibok prompted global outrage and forced the president, Goodluck Jonathan, to accept international help in the search operation. Jonathan has come under severe criticism for not doing enough to free the Chibok girls as well as end the six-year-long Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed 13,000 lives and forced at least 1.5 million people to flee their homes. Many analysts believe the protracted Boko Haram uprising was partly responsible for Jonathan’s defeat by the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election on 28 March. Jonathan said the forest is the last holdout of the Islamic militants and he pledged to “hand over a Nigeria completely free of terrorist strongholds”.
Buhari, who is due to assume office on 29 May, has vowed to crush the militants, who want to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.