On July 30th, the Nigerian presidency announced that after a 10-year insurgency, the Boko Haram terrorist organization had been “defeated,” and now just international jihadists were posing an increasing threat.
“The position of the Nigerian government is that the Boko Haram terrorism has been degraded and defeated. The real Boko Haram we know is defeated,” the presidency said in a statement.
The statement further said that what remained was some partial Boko Haram remnants, criminal groups and jihadists from the Maghreb and West Africa, led there due to the Libyan crisis. The situation was further exacerbated by terrorists from ISIS fleeing to Nigeria and the region from the Middle East.
“As a consequence of these international gangs, we have seen an increase of trans-border crimes and the proliferation of small arms in the Lake Chad Basin area,” the statement said.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a former Nigerian army general vowed to crush the group, after assuming office in 2015. He has said that the group were “beaten” more than once in the past, but this is the first time they were announced as officially “defeated.”
The Boko Haram uprising began in 2009, when clashes between Nigerian forces and militants left hundreds dead, including the founder of the group “the charismatic” Muhammad Yusuf.
In the 10 years it’s been on-going, more than 27,000 have died and more than 2 million were misplaced.
In 2015, the Nigerian army had significant success in pushing Boko Haram out of major towns, but they still had remote strongholds active.
Just a day before the announced “defeat,” a suspected Boko Haram attack left 65 villagers dead in the northeastern state of Borno, Nigeria. Gunmen attacked a funeral procession.
“It is 65 people dead and 10 injured,” said Muhammed Bulama, chairman of the local government.
Bulama said he thought the attack was in retaliation for the killing two weeks ago of 11 Boko Haram fighters by residents when the fighters approached their villag
“The villagers resisted the [earlier] attack, killed 11 insurgents and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles in the encounter,” he added.
“On Saturday at about 11:40am, the insurgents came on a reprisal mission, attacking mourners at a graveyard in the area.”
And even if Boko Haram was defeated, it doesn’t specifically mean the defeat of the faction that splintered off in 2016.
One faction followed longtime leader Abubakar Shekau, which tends to hit softer targets including civilians.
The splintered off faction followed Abu Musab al-Barnawi and was renamed to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and has been actively targeting military targets since 2018.
“The one led by [Abubakar] Shekau does not discriminate between security forces and civilians. So if we stick to that modus operandi, which is well known, we would believe that it is the Shekau faction that launched this attack,” Sadeeq Garba Shehu, a security analyst, told Al Jazeera from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Commenting on the difficulties faced by Nigeria’s military to defeat Boko Haram, Shehu said “the honest truth is lack of capacity.”
“I’m not saying a lack of fighting capacity, but lack of capacity In terms of personnel, equipment, in terms of mobility access to react quickly,” he added.
“The Nigerian army, air force and the navy are all evolved in this operation; they are thinly spread on the ground. We do not have enough boots on the ground to pull that area.”
So, by all means it appeared that Nigeria was rather failing in its fight against the group – sure, it cleaned up the major cities, but the other strongholds remained.
The report of the “defeat” shows a lot of similarities with the “defeat” of ISIS in Iraq, announced in 2017. Since then 10 days don’t pass without a report of an attack on or by ISIS militants.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Map Update: Boko Haram And ISIS Attacks In Niger And Nigeria
- Map Update: Boko Haram Stormed Several Villages In Northeastern Nigeria