Tag Archives: Boko Haram

Nigeria – two generals escape Boko Haram landmines

Premium Times

Two Nigerian Army generals escape Boko Haram mines

Nigerian Army in Sambisa Forest

Nigerian Army in Sambisa Forest

Two senior Nigerian Army officers escaped any harm as their convoy encountered and cleared four Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) buried by suspected elements of Boko Haram terrorists along their way from Bama to Gwoza on Saturday.

The Director Army Public Relations, Sani Usman, stated this in a statement in Maiduguri.

The Chief of Administration, Nigerian Army headquarters, Muhammad Alkali, a major general, and the Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division Nigerian Army, Victor Ezugwu, a brigadier general, were returning from an operational visit to troops involved in clearing of insurgents when they encountered the devices.

“They encountered the four clustered IEDs buried at a crossing point along Banki Junction and Pulka road, about six kilometres to Firgi in Borno State,” Mr. Usman, a brigadier general, said.

“The Explosive Ordinance Device team, however, were able to quickly detect the deadly IEDs and safely extracted and detonated the device.

“The two senior officers were on operational visit to troops of 26 Task Force Brigade deployed for Operation Lafiya Dole currently engaged in Operation Deep Punch.

“The team among other places visited 112 Task Force Battalion Pulka.”

The Nigerian Army recently requested help from the United Nations in removing Boko Haram mines from liberated areas in the north-east.

On April 5, a UN team arrived Nigeria to assess the number of landmines Boko Haram terrorists have laid in the Sambisa Forest.

The mines are believed to have been planted by fleeing Boko Haram members who have lost majority of the territory they once controlled to Nigerian forces.

The Boko Haram insurgency has caused the death of about 100,000 people since 2009, according to official figures.

The region in Niger quietly piloting a Boko Haram amnesty

African Arguments

Diffa region, Boko Haram amnesty

The bold experiment is proving attractive, but comes fraught with dangers.

In mid-December 2016, in rural Diffa region on Niger’s southern border with Nigeria, fourteen men gave themselves up to authorities. The group said that they were former fighters of Boko Haram and that they had abandoned their weapons in the bush.

News of this impromptu surrender from the Islamist militant group responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and millions of displacements came as a surprise to most in the area. But not to regional authorities.

Since late last year, they had been quietly testing a tactic of asking families whose children have joined Boko Haram to spread word of an amnesty. If they surrendered, fighters were told, they would be pardoned and assisted in rejoining their communities.

Before then, the main regional response to the brutal Islamist militant group had been military. This has had some successes in weakening the combatants, and the last major Boko Haram attack in Niger in which civilians were killed was in September 2016. But in Nigeria, where the group originated, and beyond, gruesome assaults, abductions, and bombings of schools and markets continued.

To those in Diffa, these attacks have been shocking. But more distressing to many has been the rate of voluntary conscription amongst Niger’s youth. Imams and village chiefs return to one question: “What about this savagery is attractive to our young?” Families and leaders tussle with this issue, but many simply refuse to countenance that those who join Boko Haram from Niger are truly radicalised.

It was with this belief in mind – as well as an awareness of the limits of a ground war – that the experimental amnesty plan was hatched last year. The exact details of the “secret messaging” campaign are unclear, but local leaders express pride in their initiative, which they say is ongoing, and follow it closely.

As the prefect of Maïné-Soroa told me, “Governor [of Diffa Region] Dan Dano calls every night to ask how many Boko have surrendered.”

As of late-March, the number stood at nearly 150 across Diffa.

Planning ahead

In terms of numbers, the amnesty scheme has so far proven to be effective. The logic behind it is also clear. Uganda’s use of a similar strategy to entice defections from the Lord’s Resistance Army in the early-2000s is widely believed to have weakened rebel ranks. And Diffa’s experiment comes at a time when Boko Haram is already facing factional splintering and other difficulties.

[Making sense of Boko Haram’s different factions: Who, how and why?]

As a locally-designed and -executed initiative, it is also impressive and promising. Often when disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) schemes are implemented, they are imported internationally with little local ownership. But this is not the case with Diffa, and other regions facing the same problem are watching the bold experiment closely.

However, while local leaders are buoyed by progress so far, not everyone is convinced.

Some believe that the policy is a distraction from tackling the longer-term push factors – such as poverty and a weak state – that lead youth to join Boko Haram in the first place. Meanwhile others worry that funds from other more widely beneficial development projects will be re-directed to rehabilitating former combatants.

As Niger’s Minister of Justice Marou Amadou says of ex-Boko Haram fighters, “it costs us money to house them, to feed them”.

For his part, Governor Dano says he is not yet seeking funds to help manage the growing caseload. His intent is to pilot the idea and, if it proves tenable, to seek support where it is needed. But this more reactive approach also brings with it certain risks.

At present, anticipated needs only cover the Goudoumaria reintegration centre where vocational training and de-radicalisation programmes are to take place over a two-year period. As in combatant DDR programmes elsewhere, external partners will be involved.

However, if defector numbers spike with no clear plan or resources already in place, the programme could stall. Frustrations could escalate and deserters may revolt or even re-mobilise. This has happened in many other DDR programmes where logistics and planning were slow or inadequate.

Local suspicion

Another serious challenge to the amnesty comes from the fact that, at a grassroots level, many local communities in Niger are not yet on board with the idea. They view the deserters with suspicion and hostility.

Unlike in Uganda, there is currently no legal framework for Diffa’s amnesty initiative, meaning there is no official process by which ex-combatants can gain legal status as pardoned deserters. Moreover, some worry that those surrendering are being planted by Boko Haram.

Dano concedes that processing the defectors will take time, but insists there are measures in place to determine threat levels.

“We cross-reference their stories, their claim to a certain village and family, by visiting those places and confirming details. We try to learn more about them, when they left and if witnesses saw them attacking villages here,” he says. He also suggests that those who are genuinely radicalised will simply ignore the offer of an amnesty.

In order to drive support for the initiative, Dano along with local prefects and leaders have been appearing before the public. But from all reports, these are purely declaratory rather than responsive exercises.

This could pose a serious problem. If local leadership fails to convince the population, it could undermine the whole endeavour. After all, it is ultimately victims – more so than ex-combatants or state officials – whose buy-in is essential for an amnesty to be effective. For reconciliation and reinsertion of former fighters to be possible, communities must be prepared to accept them back into their lives.

Yet there are currently no participatory approaches being adopted to more closely involve communities, and many simply see the amnesty as impunity. Furthermore, popular sentiment may harden as word spreads that deserters could be rewarded with vocational training and livelihoods assistance while innocent, traumatised communities get nothing.

“We think we are diminishing the ranks of BH with this amnesty effort, but now what are we doing with the defectors?” asks Minister Amadou. “We aren’t prosecuting them – none of this is good for us.”

The price of peace?

The challenges and risks of Diffa’s pilot amnesty are thus clear to see. Trying to pardon and rehabilitate former fighters under volatile and uncertain circumstances comes fraught with dangers, especially if the initiatives are not carefully and thoroughly financed and planned.

Meanwhile, if local communities remain resistant to the idea, the policy could result in deepening resentment, hostility and suspicion.

However, as Boko Haram continues to terrorise Niger and the Lake Chad region, local authorities insist that the risks of continuing with a predominantly military approach are similarly grave.

“We cannot become Nigeria”, says Dano.

Fighting Boko Haram may involve policies that are controversial to begin with, say local leaders, but they are ultimately necessary.

Asked how he justifies pardoning former Boko Haram militants and spending scarce funds on their rehabilitation to those in Diffa, the Maïné-Soroa prefect sighs. “I tell them such is the price we have to pay for peace”.

Nigeria – 30,000 displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

Premium Times

displaced by Boko Haram return from Cameroon

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, says 30,000 Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who fled the state at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency have returned home.

Abdullahi Umar, the spokesperson of the agency, said in a statement issued in Maiduguri on Wednesday that the figure was part of the 78,000 IDPs that fled the state to Cameroon during the period.

Mr. Umar said that the returnees were part of the 43,000 IDPs that signified interest to return home.

He said the displaced persons were being kept in a camp at Banki in Bama Local Government Area of the state.

He said that a team of SEMA officials had already visited the camp to assess their condition.

“The SEMA Executive Secretary, Malam Alkali Goni, has led a delegation of the agency to Banki to assess the conditions of the IDPs,” he said.

The spokesman also said that the IDPs had been assured that the State Government had made adequate provisions for their welfare.

He quoted Baba Shehu, the Caretaker Chairman of the local government, as thanking the state government for the gesture and promising judicious use of the items donated.

Nigeria – Boko Haram sacks army battalion camp, killing troops and taking arms

Premium Times

FILE PHOTO: Boko Haram

FILE PHOTO: Boko Haram

Nigerian troops fighting the extremist Boko Haram sect have suffered major setbacks, with the terror group sacking an army battalion, killing eight soldiers and wounding 11 others in two separate attacks in three days, reliable military insiders have told PREMIUM TIMES.

The army formations involved in the incidents also lost several arms and ammunition, and are calling for urgent restocking of their armouries, our sources said.

The first incident, involving troops deployed at the Forward Operating Base in Sabon Gari, Borno State, occurred at about 6 p.m. on Monday when over 200 Boko Haram terrorists on motorcycles suddenly descended on the base.

The terrorists, according to those familiar with the incidents, had five gun trucks on which twin barrel artillery guns were mounted.

The Nigerian troops fought back gallantly, but were dislodged from their location after about an hour of fierce battle.

Five soldiers were killed in action while nine others were seriously injured. Four other soldiers are yet to be found as at the time of this report

Army authorities did not immediately comment about the development.

Efforts made by this newspaper to get Army spokesperson, Sani Usman; Defence spokesperson, John Enenche; and Commander of Multi-National Joint Task Force in Maiduguri, Leo Irabor, were unsuccessful.

While Mr. Usman, a brigadier general, and Mr. Irabor, a major general, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to their respective phone lines on Thursday; an assistant to Mr. Enenche, a major general, said his boss was at a meeting.

The subordinate, who identified himself as Lieutenant Colonel Olabisi, said Mr. Enenche was holding a seminar with defence correspondents and will revert back as soon as possible.

Subsequent calls to his phone after about two hours later were neither answered nor returned. The initial text messages sent to his line were also not replied to before this publication.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that hours after the unit retreated from its Sabon Gari base, the surviving troops, along with reinforcements from 25 Brigade, returned to the location in several armoured cars and buses.

The counterattack was largely successful, but the army is currently lamenting the loss of their equipment, arms and ammunition in the incident.

Our sources gave a list of equipment carted away by the terrorists to include three Steyr Armoured Personnel Carriers, one gun truck mounted with anti-aircraft ammunition, and 9 self-propelled guns.

The terrorists also carted away 16 AK47 rifles, one HF radio, two rocket-propelled grenades, two 60MM mortals and all the reserved ammunition and drugs in the base.

But two days later, just as the army was trying to address the loss caused it by that incident, troops of 82 Division Task Force Battalion ran into an IED ambush laid by the terrorists.

That attack occurred at about 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, April 19, while the soldiers were on administrative patrol along the Ngoshe-Bokkotinta-Pulka axis.

Three soldiers were killed in the incident while two were wounded.

The troops also lost one gun truck, one mine lab detector device and four AK 47 rifles.

Our sources said a large number of terrorists were killed in the two incidents while several others escaped with gunshot wounds.

The latest Boko Haram attacks despite the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers indicate they have not been completely defeated. The terror group has lost virtually all the territory it once controlled to Nigerian forces and displaced persons have since started returning to such communities.

The recent attacks also come about one week after the world marked three years since the abduction of over 200 female students by the Boko Haram from Chibok in Borno State. President Muhammadu Buhari has, however, indicated his administration’s determination to ensure the return of the 195 girls still believed to be held captive by the terror group.

Nigerian Defence Minister says it may take years to free all the Chibok girls

Premium Times

FILE PHOTO: A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram released a new video on claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed.  A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing. AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM 
RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

FILE PHOTO: A screengrab taken on May 12, 2014, from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP shows girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location. Boko Haram released a new video on claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging they had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed. A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing. AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE
Nigeria’s defence minister, Mansur Ali, has warned that it may take years to find all the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.  Boko Haram kidnapped the 276 students from a government secondary school in the north-eastern town of Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014. About 195 of the girls are still missing and are believed to be in the custody of insurgents, whose activities have caused the death of about 100,000 people since 2009.

Speaking to VOA’s Hausa service, monitored in Yola Tuesday, Mr. Ali, a retired brigadier general, said the military is committed to finding the girls and is searching Boko Haram hideouts in the Sambisa forest, a vast area covering parts of three states in north-eastern Nigeria.

He compared the inability to find the girls despite retaking most of the territory initially occupied by Boko Haram to the U.S. efforts to find Osama bin Laden after the invasion of Afghanistan.

“It took the U.S. up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden,” he said. “We are continuing our campaign in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners.”

Mr. Ali spoke to VOA as activists marked the third anniversary of the girls’ abductions demanding more from the federal government to free the girls.

In 2014, Boko Haram seized control of about 14 local governments in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They have since lost virtually all the territory they occupied with the government saying they no longer control any territory within the country.

Despite the success, the government’s inability to find the Chibok girls is overshadowing the military victory.

While reacting to the abduction on the VOA programme, an Islamic cleric, Nuru Khalid, a member of the influential Interfaith group that tries to ensure peace between Nigerian Muslims and Christians, said failure to find the girls would translate into a victory for Boko Haram.

“We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got [away] free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war,” he said.

Also, a human rights lawyer, Bulama Bukar, said the government needs to address the psychological trauma suffered by the families of the missing girls and other victims of Boko Haram brutality.

“Married women have been made single again; kids have been orphaned; homeowners are without shelter; Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland,” he said.

President Buhari in his statement to mark the three years abduction of the Chibok girls had pledged that his administration will do everything possible to ensure the freedom of the girls.

Less armed conflict but more political violence in Africa

Institute for Security Studies

Conflict data sources show fewer armed conflicts, but are we getting the full picture?

Political violence in Africa is rising and it is more complex than before. But it is significantly less deadly than in previous decades, according to a number of conflict data sources.

Open-source conflict data is increasingly used to supplement reporting and analysis of trends in instability in Africa. A number of recent global reports, including the OECD States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, use conflict data to show changes in conflict type, actors, tactics and intensity across and within countries over time.

While Africa accounted for only 16% of the global population in 2016, more than a third of global conflict took place here last year. Leading conflict data projects such as the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) show that conflict incidents in Africa rose significantly between 2010 and 2014, but have been declining since 2015.

Levels of high-intensity conflicts and wars (where over 500 people are killed) in Africa, as measured by the Center for Systemic Peace and the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), are lower than during the 1990s.

Current armed conflicts in Africa are clustered in four regions: North Africa and the Sahel, West Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes region. ACLED reports that between 2010 and 2016, the highest number of politically violent events occurred in Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Across both UCDP and ACLED, in 2015 conflict killed the most people in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and the DRC.

Despite ongoing brutal conflicts since the early 2000s, violence in Africa has been moving away from armed conflicts to higher levels of riots, protests and social violence, such as homicide and violence associated with organised crime. The evidence base for social violence is however weaker – typically drawn from nationally reported homicide statistics. These sources provide little information about for example actor types, tactics and association with criminal gangs, limiting our ability to understand the relationship between political and social violence.

The three-fold increase in ACLED-reported incidents since 2010 is largely explained by the steady rise of protests and riots, spread across the continent as seen in Figure 1 below. South Africa had the highest number of protest events in 2016, followed by Tunisia, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Figure 1: Map of event types, 2010-2016

https://issafrica.org/frame/58c7dda254f9f

Source: ACLED, Version 7.0, January 2017.
Remote violence refers to incidents where the tool used doesn’t require physical human presence, for example, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and mortar and missile attacks. Most battle events were fought in Somalia, Libya and Nigeria.

While these arcs of conflict (North Africa/Sahel, West Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes) seem to hold over time, dynamics within conflicts tend to change, as seen in the rise of remote violence. ACLED reports that Somalia saw the highest number of remote violence incidents in Africa in 2016. IEDs have become ‘the weapon of choice’ for al-Shabaab. Remote violence typically targets civilians, while battle actors target each other.

Civilian targeting is on the rise. According to ACLED, the deadliest incidents of civilian targeting in 2016 occurred in Nigeria and Ethiopia and were carried out by militias and state forces. In many settings, there is also a greater number of conflict agents than before. ACLED reports that there were 66 distinct actors in Libya in 2016, for example – almost twice as many as in 2013.

The types of actors and groups involved in conflicts are also changing. Historically, rebel groups and state forces are the most common actors across Africa, but increasingly, political and communal militias and unidentified armed groups dominate. This shift is indicative of changing motivations. Political militias differ from rebel groups in that they don’t seek to directly overthrow the governing regime.

The HIIK Conflict Barometer 2016 finds that most high- and low-intensity wars are shifting away from coup attempts and power grabs compared to previous years, and the continent is witnessing more ‘violent crises’, which are associated with fewer deaths, refugees and internally displaced persons.

But politically motivated violence is only part of the story. In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Study on Homicide estimated that 31% of global homicides occurred in Africa. So to get the full picture, data is needed on both political/conflict-related violence and criminal violence – a point made by the OECD report and a new report by Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

For starters, governments need the capacity to better collect data and regularly release crime statistics. These should be disaggregated by gender and include important information, such as links with organised crime. Different data sources also need to be standardised and made compatible with each other so that they can be compared.

This is necessary, as Kleinfeld points out, if African countries want to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to ‘significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere’.

Ciara Aucoin, Researcher, African Futures and Innovation, ISS Pretoria

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Nigeria – UNICEFR reports wave of child suicide bombings by Boko Haram

Reuters

 

Child suicide bombings surge in Boko Haram conflict – UNICEF

ABUJA The use of children as suicide bombers by the insurgents of Boko Haram has surged in 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

In the countries fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad – 27 children have been used in suicide attacks by the armed Islamist group in the first three months of the year, UNICEF said in a report and statement.

There were nine cases in the same period last year, and 30 children used for bombings in all of 2016, it said. Most were girls.

The Boko Haram insurgency is now in its eighth year with little sign of ending, having claimed over 20,000 lives. Its child kidnappings gained global notoriety after the abduction of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria’s northeast in 2014, three years ago on Friday.

Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands, often raping them, forcing them to become suicide bombers, help the militants in their conflict or marry fighters, UNICEF said.

“These children are victims, not perpetrators,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

“Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”

One 16-year-old girl from Chad lost her legs after being drugged and forced by Boko Haram to take part in an attempted suicide attack on a crowded market, according to UNICEF’s report.

Though the girl survived, her family initially rejected her “out of fear of stigma”.

Children who escape Boko Haram are often held in custody by authorities or ostracised by their communities and families.

About 370 remain in custody, a UNICEF spokeswoman told Reuters, after Nigeria’s military on Monday released 593 people, including children, after clearing them of having ties with Boko Haram.

“Society’s rejection of these children, and their sense of isolation and desperation, could be making them more vulnerable to promises of martyrdom through acceptance of dangerous and deadly missions,” UNICEF said in its report.

Children make up 1.3 million of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict.

UNICEF said its response to the crisis “remains severely underfunded”, hitting efforts to provide mental health and social support, reunite families and offer education, safe water and medical services.

Last year, the group received only two-fifths of the $154 million it appealed for.

The United Nations says it needs $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for the Lake Chad region this year, and $457 million had been pledged for 2017 by late February.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; editing by Andrew Roche)