Friday, March 27, 2015 1:09 pm
Nigeria’s military on Friday announced that troops had retaken the town of Gwoza from Boko Haram, from which the group declared their caliphate last year.
“Troops this morning captured Gwoza destroying the Headquarters of the Terrorists self-styled Caliphate,” Defence Headquarters in Abuja said on Twitter.
“Several terrorists died while many are captured. Mopping up of entire Gwoza and her suburbs is ongoing,” it added in a separate message.
President Goodluck Jonathan, criticised for long for inaction over the Boko Haram menace and seizure of Nigerian territory, had told a group of international election monitors that the Nigerian troops would retake Gwoza today.
“We believe by tomorrow (Thursday) or latest Friday, we will be able to take over Gwoza. If we take over Gwoza it will not take us more than one week to clean up. Now Boko Haram is not in position to come out and disrupt elections,” he said on Wednesday.
The new claim could not be verified.
Earlier this month, residents who fled the town in Borno state told AFP that militants had been massing in Gwoza and killing local people who were unable to flee.
That led to speculation that the group, which has been pushed out of a number of towns in three northeast states in recent weeks, was preparing for a final assault.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared on August 24 last year that Gwoza was “part of the Islamic caliphate”, adding to speculation the militants were imitating the Islamic State group.
– ‘Final onslaught’ –
Shekau had the previous month praised IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but stopped short of pledging allegiance. He has since formally allied himself to the group in Syria and Iraq.
Nigeria’s national security spokesman Mike Omeri said last week that troops had begun the “final onslaught” against Boko Haram, saying Gwoza was one of three areas yet to be retaken.
A four-nation coalition of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon has claimed a number of successes since the turn of the year to end the insurgency which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2009.
The ongoing operation was cited as a reason to delay Nigeria’s general election on February 14 to this Saturday, as soldiers would not be able to provide security nationwide.