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    Boko Haram Tag

    Right after the Paris attacks of November 2015 that killed 128 people, President Obama scoffed at Republicans for being "scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America." But just because those "clinging to their guns and religion"  -- to use another of Obama's expression-- might be skeptical of mass-migration from Muslim dominated countries, doesn't mean Islamic terrorism isn't out to get them. According to a recent report published by a UK-based counter-extremism think tank, Islamist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram are using child recruits to infiltrate the refugee wave currently overwhelming Europe. ISIS was paying smugglers to bring child recruits across to Europe and offering up to $2,000 for each child recruited inside the refugees camps in Lebanon and Jordan, says the report issued by Quilliam International.

    A civilian fighter in Nigeria has rescued one of the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. The fighter with the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) recognized Amina Ali Nkek in the Sambisa Forest, located near the Cameroon and Nigeria border. Officials believe the radical Islamic group has held the girls in the forest since the kidnapping. The kidnapping launched the #BringBackOurGirls campaign across the world and social media, including First Lady Michelle Obama.

    Some of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been freed, but their vale of tears has not ended with their liberation. There are tragedies so deep, suffering so vast, that it's hard to know what to say in the face of them. Certainly it's hard to know what to do, even for those who try to help. These are young women and in many cases young girls who were initially subjected to the trauma of kidnapping. Then they were raped over and over again, sometimes by different men or sometimes by a particular man who maintained he was that girl's husband. They were kept prisoner, harangued, indoctrinated, and often became pregnant and bore the children of their captors. For them, even the process of being freed was devastating, violent, and sometimes resulted in the death of some of the captives during the melee. And now that they are free, they are further restricted---to special camps run by the Nigerian army---and ostracized from society.

    Back in June when we last covered Boko Haram, the group was recovering from a series of losses with a new propaganda push aimed at dispelling rumors about the insurgency's slow implosion. Boko Haram rallied soon after, and surged once again outside of Nigeria and into neighboring countries, resuming their campaign of terror. The American Foreign Press reports that earlier this week the terror group abducted 135 people and killed 8 during a village raid in northern Cameroon. The move into Cameroon from the group's base territory in northeastern Nigeria is part of a surge in the group's terror activity in neighboring countries. More from AFP:
    The insurgents also shot dead nine fishermen in a village near the shores of Lake Chad in northeastern Nigeria, amid heightened violence region-wide since Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's was sworn in in May. More than 800 people have been killed in just two months in a surge of Boko Haram attacks, which began after Buhari took office on a pledge to defeat the militants.

    Last month, international investors aired their concerns about how instability in Nigeria could shift what was once a balanced and successful economy into dangerous territory. The country had just ousted their incumbent President, and replaced him with a man claiming a serious commitment to ending the rise of Islamic extremism; but the promise of political overhaul wasn't enough. Coalition forces claimed multiple victories over Boko Haram, eradicating their hideouts and rescuing hostages; yet attacks on citizens living in the embattled villages of northeastern Nigeria continued. Terror remains the norm, and yesterday, residents of the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri woke up to find their world on fire. A band of Boko Haram militants attacked the city with bombs, and executed a suicide bombing that took the lives of at least 20 people. It wasn't the first attack on Maiduguri, and it certainly won't be the last: late last month, newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari declared the city the headquarters in the war to curb the Islamic uprising. Boko Haram may be under fire, but when it comes to the business of terrorism (i.e., creating terror), they continue to make headway, and their new efforts at distributing propaganda have cast doubt on just how effective coalition efforts to eradicate the group have been.

    Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the May 29 inauguration of Nigerian President Elect Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja next week. Buhari stands to replace Goodluck Jonathan, and will take his place in the history books as the first challenger to ever oust an incumbent president in a Nigerian election. Unlike Kerry's recent visit to Somalia, this visit will not be unprecedented. Before January's elections, Kerry visited the country and warned officials that their future relationship with the US depended upon the completion of a successful election. (One could make a fair argument that the elections weren't completely successful---many Nigerian polling places---especially those in the conflict-torn northeastern states---played host to violence and intimidation tactics, and prevented a solid majority of the population from casting a vote.) Kerry's visit is likely to constitute more than just a celebration of a new regime, however. Nigeria is Africa's largest economy, and most successful oil producer, but their first quarter returns reflect the nervousness of their investors, and suggest trouble for the economy:

    Earlier this week, I wrote on reports that the Nigerian military had managed to rescue hundreds of women and girls from now-defunct Boko Haram camps in northeastern Nigeria. Good news like that doesn't come along every day---but maybe today is just a good week for hope, because almost 200 more women and children have been rescued in the Sambisa Forest area. The 200 "Chibok" girls of #BringBackOurGirls fame do not appear to be among those rescued, but reports have not yet confirmed that. More from CNN:
    "We are still working to verify the actual number of the rescued hostages, but I can say they include around 60 women and 100 children," said army spokesman Sani Usman. A female hostage and a soldier were killed during the rescue operation at Sambisa Forest, a base for the Islamist extremists. Troops are moving into other parts of the forest and have destroyed nine militant camps, the spokesman said. "Many of those kidnapped have undergone psychological trauma and indoctrination," he said.
    This is huge, for a variety of reasons.

    Earlier this month, we covered the anniversary of the mass abduction of 200 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Nigeria's new government made waves when it tacitly acknowledged that those kidnapped were most likely not coming home. Factoring in the time missing, and the nature of the captors, holding out hope was no longer a realistic option. For the girls taken last year, that's likely still the case; but today, hope remained alive for almost 300 other women and girls who were rescued by the Nigerian military. The captives were rescued during operations by the Nigerian military to seize four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest in northeast Nigeria. From Fox News:
    A military source who was in Sambisa told The Associated Press that some of the women rescued Tuesday fought back, and that Boko Haram was using armed women as human shields, putting them as their first line of defense. The Nigerian troops managed to subdue them and rounded them all up, and some said they were forced to fight for Boko Haram, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Boko Haram also has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere. A month ago the Nigerian military began pounding the Sambisa Forest in air raids, an assault they said earlier they had been avoiding for fear of killing the Chibok schoolgirls, or inciting their captors to kill them.

    Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari is already making waves in his divided country. On today's anniversary of the mass abduction of 200 girls in Chibok by members of Boko Haram, Buhari walked back the previous administration's promises to find the girls, and took a tone of remembrance. The "Bring Back our Girls" movement is still alive and well, but many members of the campaign to seek justice---including members of the new administration---have begun pivoting away from Goodluck Jonathan's "Bring Back Our Girls — Now and Alive!" slogan by introducing a new one: "Never to be forgotten." The reaction to the new Administration's position has been less than supportive, especially in areas where Boko Haram is especially active. From the AP:
    In Chibok, dozens of family members and supporters marked the anniversary by gathering at the remains of the school, in front of a burned out and roofless classroom. Young girls held handwritten signs demanding "Bring back our girls — Now and Alive." One mother, Mariam Abubakar, told the crowd she was in disbelief that the government had been unable to rescue the girls during a whole year.

    Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has officially conceded defeat in this week's elections. Initial counts suggest he lost by more than 2 million votes. Those of you familiar with Nigeria's political evolution understand what a huge step this concession is toward getting through the election season; operatives on the ground in Nigeria anticipated violence, and for good reason. Fighting following 2011's highly-contested elections led to the deaths of over 800 people after allegations surfaced that efforts were made to disenfranchise voters unlikely to support the incumbent regime. So, a public concession is a huge deal---but it's not been effective at diffusing all tension:
    As the scale of this weekend's electoral landslide became clear, President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, Buhari's camp said, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan's supporters. In the religiously mixed northern city of Kaduna, where 800 people were killed in violence after the last elections in 2011, Buhari supporters streamed onto the streets, waving flags, dancing and singing in celebration.

    Boko Haram killed over 10,000 people last year, perpetuating a reign of terror that still hasn't managed to break through the tough outer crust of the American media's attention. (Don't talk to me about #BringBackOurGirls...that was a trend that was abandoned at the very moment it became obvious that terrorists don't give a damn about your hashtagged agenda.) BH may be a motley rebel force (an Uber driver from Nigeria once told me that a few decently-trained American platoons could wipe them out in an afternoon) but that doesn't mean they haven't managed to put the fear of God into the people of Nigeria---especially those in the northeastern sector. Back in February the group managed to force a six week delay in the upcoming presidential elections as officials from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin began formulating a plan to eliminate BH, and only recently has that coalition force begun to gain ground in preventing BH from targeting both strategically important as well as "soft targets." Nigeria has a big "top down" problem when it comes to governance, and the tension created by the disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots" is reflected in what we know so far about the contest between current President Goodluck Jonathan, and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Boko Haram managed to sabotage Sunday's elections, demonstrating just how adept they still are at terrorizing those "soft targets." WSJ explains what happened:

    Boko Haram is still burning its way through west central Africa, but a multistate coalition is slowly finding ways to fight back. Reports are just now surfacing that over the weekend, soldiers from Niger and Chad retook the city of Damasask from Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram. The push was part of a region-wide campaign to regain control of several areas in northern Nigeria.
    An Associated Press photographer in the northeastern town said it was largely deserted of civilians. Four people, including an old man, came onto the street to wave at a convoy among 2,000 troops from Niger and Chad in the town. There were still signs of the town's occupation by the rebels. Their writings were scrawled on every wall and the groups' black and white flag still flew above some buildings. A group of Chadian troops transferred weapons confiscated from Boko Haram into a pick-up truck truck. They were then taken to helicopters for transport to Niger. The weapons included AK47 assault rifles and 50-calibre guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells.
    Boko Haram killed 10,000 people last year, and now the UN has finally come forward with a plan for a resolution to endorse actions taken by the governments of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Benin to further roll back the influence of Boko Haram. Using Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, the resolution would endorse military action for a period of 12 months to take "all necessary measures" against Boko Haram. It also asks for the establishment of a trust fund to help finance the military operation. Of course, there are disagreements:

    According to AFP, Boko Haram's leader pledged loyalty to ISIS in an audio message posted to Twitter this afternoon. From Yahoo News:
    Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram militants, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in an audio recording released Saturday. "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi," said the voice on the message, which was believed to be that of Shekau and was released through Boko Haram's Twitter account. Qurashi is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the IS group which has proclaimed a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq. Shekau spoke in Arabic, but the message contained French and English subtitles. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the message. Shekau was not pictured, a contrast from most of Boko Haram's past messages in which the Islamist leader has been shown, often in close up shots. But Shekau did identify himself in the recording, which was accompanied by the subtitles and a graphic including an image of a radio microphone. There have in recent months been signs of closer ties between the Nigerian militants and the IS group, with both using similar ways of communicating with the outside world. Boko Haram has notably begun releasing videos that resemble those made by IS. Boko Haram has been waging a six-year uprising against the Nigerian state, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Analysts have long debated the extent of Boko Haram's ties to other jihadist groups, but the evidence was never clear.

    Today, Islamic extremist group Boko Haram launched a three-front assault on northeast Nigeria's largest city, Maidguri, and also raided villages in Adamawa state, burning homes and abducting women and children. Via Fox News:
    In Maiduguri, troops blocked roads into the city, which also prevented civilians from escaping. "Coordinated air and land operations are being conducted now," Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade posted on Twitter. He said the 12-hour curfew in place in Maiduguri for more than a year is extended to 24 hours. "We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk," Amnesty International said. More than 200 combatants have been killed, mainly insurgents, according to soldiers and civilian self-defense fighters who counted bodies. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to reporters.
    Although forces in Maiduguri were able to fight back the wave of insurgents, the army at Monguno, just north of Maiduguri, was overwhelmed and Boko Haram was able to seize control of the city.

    The #BringBackOurGirls hashtivism trend may not have saved the almost 300 young women who were kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this year, but it did force the world to focus its attention on Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group responsible for the kidnappings. It's time to bring that attention back. Most of the media's coverage of Boko Haram has focused either on the kidnappings, or on the scrappy, regional nature of the group's quest for self-determination as a nation of Islam. The problem with this is that while the west has been busy forgetting to pay attention to the almost 200 girls who are still missing, Boko Haram has been growing. From the Associated Press:
    In Niger, the government has declared a "humanitarian crisis" and appealed for international aid to help tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees driven from their homes by the insurgency. These recent events show how neighboring countries are increasingly being drawn into Nigeria's Islamic uprising. Thousands of people have been killed in Nigeria's 5-year insurgency and some 1.6 million people driven from their homes. "We are concerned about the increasing regionalization of Boko Haram," said Comfort Ero, Africa director for the International Crisis Group. On Sunday, Cameroon's army announced it had broken up a Boko Haram training camp in the Mayo-Danay district in the country's Far North region. The army was looking for other hideouts in the area, said Jean-Pierre Mbida, a soldier with the Rapid Intervention Battalion tasked with fighting the insurgents. "We will continue monitoring the area in the hope of uncovering any other Boko Haram hideouts and training grounds," he added.
    Boko Haram is pulling fighters from Niger, Chad, and Cameroon into Nigeria, and has also managed to gain control of previously free areas in Niger. The general territory Boko Haram runs in is poor, and largely ignored by the government, making it easy for them to implement their alternative-authority structure over an even less-than-willing population.

    Earlier this year "#BringBackOurGirls" rose, trended, then fizzled on Twitter; but recent negotiations between the Nigerian government and Islamist group Boko Haram might lead to the release of the 200 schoolgirl hostages whose plight inspired the hashtag. Designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2013, Boko Haram began its mission of violence in 2009 with the goal of overthrowing the Nigerian government and creating an Islamic state. Now, after five years and thousands dead, a cease fire has reportedly been reached. Via Bloomberg:
    “A cease-fire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Jamatu Ahlis Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad,” Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh said yesterday in an e-mailed statement, referring to Boko Haram. “I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development.” ... Boko Haram said “the schoolgirls and other people in their captivity are alive and well,” Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a separate statement from Abuja, the capital.
    Reuters reports:
    Nigeria's armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday. On Saturday, two senior government sources said it aims to secure the girls' release as early as Monday or Tuesday, although they declined to give further details.
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