Boko Haram still controls 4 local councils; 36 towns fall

Boko Haram still controls 4 local councils; 36 towns fall

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 8:50 pm


Nigeria said on Wednesday that 36 towns had been retaken from Boko Haram since the start of a four-nation military offensive, voicing hope that the operation could lead to the group’s “total defeat”.

But another Nigerian official said the insurgents are in control of four local councils, underscoring the fact that much needs to be done.

Abubakar Shekau: Boko Haram leader, in control of 4 local councils

Abubakar Shekau: Boko Haram leader, in control of 4 local councils

National security spokesman Mike Omeri said four towns had fallen since last Friday, including three in Borno state and Buni Yadi, in neighbouring Yobe state, where the insurgents slaughtered more than 40 students in February last year before seizing it in August.

Crucial “cooperations and alliances” have led to victories over the Islamist rebels, he said, thanking neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger for cutting off “the supply lines of the terrorists”.

“It is hoped that the unfolding regional cooperation will hasten the total defeat and extermination of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the sub-region,” he added.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington, the head of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke, said the militants still controlled four local government areas.

He said he was optimistic that in a matter of weeks Boko Haram would no longer be in control of any territory, even if the government admits that bombings and gun attacks are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

– Elections boost? –

Since the unprecedented joint offensive was launched last month, Nigeria has maintained that its troops were controlling operations.

But witnesses, experts and claims by other militaries indicate that Chadian troops have made a particularly large contribution, advancing deep into Nigerian territory and flushing Boko Haram fighters out of several parts of Borno state.

Nigeria delayed its February 14 general election to March 28 after security chiefs said they needed more time to weaken the militants.

The reported successes, which have not all been independently verified, may allow more people to vote across Boko Haram’s northeast stronghold.

On Wednesday, the United States said it was seeking to revive a training programme with the Nigerian military that was pulled last year after a dispute over weapons procurement.

Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington last year criticised the US for failing to provide the weapons required to deliver a “killer punch” to Boko Haram.

A US training programme for troops to fight Boko Haram was then shelved, although Abuja said the cancellation was a logistical, not a political decision.

US ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle told reporters that officials were now “in the discussion stage” over a possible new programme.

“We’re willing to talk about everything and hammer out the details based on what we can provide,” he added.

Increased humanitarian assistance is one area where the international community could become more involved.

The International Committee for the Red Cross on Tuesday warned of a “full-blown humanitarian crisis” in the Lake Chad region, where Nigeria meets Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Entwistle described the plight of the displaced as “horrible”, adding: “It’s sad to see. Many people have been displaced several times because of the conflict. We’re doing what we can.”

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