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Again, Boko Haram bares its fangs

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Deploys girl-suicide bombers enmasse in Borno
•No cause for alarm — Military


According to the Global Terrorism Index, a report released by the New York-based Institute for Economics and Peace, Boko Haram “has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world”.

The Islamist group has  increasingly relied on children and women as weapons, often deploying young girls strapped with explosives in  crowded marketplaces, public gatherings  and worship centres, particularly churches and mosques in the North-East.

This  clearly shows  that the insurgents  can still spring surprises inspite of the fact that they have been substantially degraded by the military in compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s December 31, 2015 deadline to end terrorist activities in the country.

An Analyst, Rotimi Fasan, said: “Just days before Christmas, the Federal Government declared it had met its self-imposed December deadline for the overthrow of insurgent forces in Nigeria. At different fora, both President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister  of  Information, Lai Mohammed, claimed that Nigeria had won the war against Boko Haram.

“The capacity of the insurgent group to launch coordinated attacks against targets and overrun towns and villages has been drastically degraded. The group has been reduced to its pre-Jonathan administration days when it launched guerrilla attacks against soft targets,” Fasan said.

“That the group now controls just two or three local governments in its stronghold of Borno State, down from when it was in effective control of about three states- that its capacity for terror has been largely cut down is, for both Buhari and Mohammed, enough evidence that the administration has fulfilled its promise to end insurgency and make Boko Haram a thing of the past”.

At the best of times, it is not unusual for governments to engage in  chest-thumping, congratulating themselves for real or perceived achievements. But these are unusual times when every claim of progress or victory in a particular area of governance by a sitting administration is often combed through and subjected  to  scrutiny. Nothing is left to chance. Where progress has been made, the government would make so much song and dance of it. But the opposition is quick to downplay its importance. And where such claim to achievement is exaggerated, the opposition wastes no time in pointing it out. Thus, the latest claim by the Buhari administration that it has overcome Boko Haram would, no doubt, be contested by many in the opposition camp. Indeed, some commentators have, before now, taken the government to task over what they saw as  an  attempt to renege on its  promise to Nigerians that Boko Haram would be defeated not later than December 2015.

Residents of Maiduguri, Borno  State capital, last Sunday, were gripped by fear after two days of bloodshed blamed on Boko Haram, pouring scorn on the government claim that the jihadist group had been  “largely defeated”.

At least 50 people were killed while 85 were injured when 14 female suicide bombers invaded Maiduguri that day only to succeed in  detonating their strapped explosives at the outskirts of the town.

Failed attacks

File: A suspected female suicide bomber arrested in Kano in 2014
File: A suspected female suicide bomber arrested in Kano in 2014

The attacks were repelled by gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, as the Theater Commander,   Major General Yushau Abubakar, while briefing newsmen at the Media Centre of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole,’ insisted that “the female suicide bombers, between the ages of 12 and 18, tried to force themselves into Maiduguri with the intention  to cause mayhem, confusion and panic.” He said the bombers  were intercepted by troops  on patrol, “but unfortunately three of the suicide bombers detonated their explosives, killing only 25 persons, while 85 others were injured”.

The Theater Commander, represented by the GOC, 7 Division, Major General Lamidi Adeosun, said the terrorists wanted  to carry out a  massive and coordinated suicide mission through Asmari, Damboa check point, Ali Dawari, Molai Kura, Baderi, Jumari villages, all at the outskirts

of Maiduguri.

The Commander said: “The   seven other suicide bombers were gunned down by our troops, three escaped and one  was arrested which I believe they have averted what would have been a major disaster if they had gained entrance into Maiduguri. One of them went to a nearby house and requested for water to perform ablution but instead prepared herself and came to a nearby mosque and blew off herself killing one  person while 13 others injured” .

According to him, the terrorists, also in recent times, laid ambush on  troops in Mairarialong, Maiduguri, Monguno and Firgi, stressing that the military lost four soldiers while two  others were injured.

Degraded terrorists

Abubakar  said the insurgents’ capacity to attack had been degraded, saying  that was why they were bent   on attacking  soft targets and laying ambush, and appealed to  the public to always be vigilant and report any suspicious movement to security outfits.

A  source at the State Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri confirmed that they received over 30 corpses while  85 others were admitted for varying degrees of injuries.

Meanwhile, Governor Kashim Shettima, on Tuesday, held a meeting with youth volunteers involved in counter insurgency operations  in Borno State, popularly known as ‘Civilian JTF,’ during which he appreciated their efforts and unveiled a  welfare package for them.

The meeting was held at the Multipurpose Hall of the Government House,  Maiduguri. The governor’s closed- door discussions with leaders of the volunteers  focused  on enhancing community policing.

At an open session later  with the volunteers, Shettima paid glowing tributes to them for sacrificing their lives and complimenting  the efforts of the armed forces to fight for the restoration of peace in the state. He said no amount of welfare package could equal the sacrifices  made by the volunteers, especially given the fact that some of them had laid their lives for Borno.

The governor said that  despite its meager resources, the state government would expend whatever it takes to ensure that the volunteers were properly paid allowances, equipped and highly motivated.   He announced a bonus of N20 million for the volunteers while directing that any backlog of  allowances be paid immediately.   Shettima asked the Ministry of Health to put a system in place that would guarantee free medical attention  for youth volunteers in all public hospitals in the state. He also ordered the supply of more patrol vehicles to the volunteers.

“We are all eternally indebted to you  and we thank you most sincerely for the sacrifices you have made for us to have peace in this part of the world. I want to assure you that once the dust settles, once this madness is over, we have the Herculean task of creating jobs, of engaging the multitude of youths who stood firm and ensure that we have peace in this part of the world”, Shettima stated.

The governor also commended President Buhari on his fight against Boko Haram and for his role towards restructuring the military.

“I have to pay a special tribute to President Muhammadu Buhari. He has shown the zeal, the courage, the passion and the commitment to bring about peace in this part of the world. Our military men and women are now adequately armed and supported so that they carry out their task, they have so far recorded great successes not withstanding some attacks being carried out by insurgents on soft targets. Insha Allah, Boko Haram will be over and very soon”, he added.

The leader of the ‘Civilian JTF’, Baba Lawan Jaafar, pledged the continued commitment of his members to supporting the military in the fight against insurgency in Borno  and said they were motivated by  Shettima’s support for them over the years. He condoled with  the governor over last Sunday’s attack  on the outskirts of Maduguri where many lives were lost.

“We have also changed our tactics and strategies. By the grace of God, we are going to resist their new tactics of inflicting havoc”, Jaafar promised.

Similarly, Shettima said that the worst of Boko Haram insurgency was over  for peace to reign in the state and the North-East  as 1.6 million displaced persons in camps could return to their communities by May this year.

The governor gave the assurance after visiting three hospitals in Maiduguri to “condole and sympathize” with victims of the Sunday  multiple blasts and village attacks that claimed 52 lives.

The over 100 surviving victims, according to the Chief Medical Directors of the State Specialist Hospital, Umaru Shehu Ultra-Modern Hospital and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Maiduguri;   Drs. Laraba Bello, Salisu Kwaya Bura, and Abdulrahaman Tahir, were responding to  treatment for burns, gunshot wounds and trauma.

Shettima, however, said that the attacks and killings, though worrisome, will not deter the state government and the citizenry from fighting terror.

He insisted that the days of the Boko Haram insurgents were  numbered, as they were already “technically defeated.”

He said even though ‘pains and anguish’ had already been inflicted on the people, their spirits remained high.

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