Nigerian Army Close In On Boko Haram Stronghold; Islamic Extremists Continue to Kidnap Women

In the heart of Sambisa Forest in North-Eastern Nigeria, zero hour has arrived. The final offensive led by the Nigerian Army takes place against Boko Haram, and ultimately their dream of establishing their own sovereign state. Boko Haram has caused great turmoil in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations, and abductions. For years, the fortified and deeply camouflaged forest served as a hideout for the armed group as well as its main stronghold, until recently when they were pushed out by the army in December. However, the extremists, who are waging a war against Western influence and fighting to instill Sharia law, still control large parts of the rural North-East.

While the Nigerian Army have been fighting Boko Haram in the forests, reports have stated that the group has abducted 22 girls and women in two separate raids in North-East Nigeria. The first attack occurred on Thursday, March 30th, in the village of Pulka, near the border with Cameroon, where they kidnapped 18 girls and the second outside the village of Dumba, close to Lake Chad, with 4 women being kidnapped following the killing of a herdsman who tried to escape after refusing to pay protection money, along with a raid on the man’s cattle. The attacks were ascribed to those loyal to the faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf. Barnawi and his right-hand man Mamman Nur, who is seen as the real leader, had promised residents in areas under their control would not be harmed as long as they did not cooperate with Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram. Most likely these captives would end up as brides for the fighters.

In the region, the violence has uprooted more than two million people from their homes, and many have ended up in camps like the one in Rann, which was accidentally bombed by the Nigerian Army earlier in the year. Even though the Nigerian Army is considered to have cornered most of Boko Haram, the Islamic extremists have been able to maneuver relatively fluidly throughout the forest. However, the Nigerian Army is confident that they will be able to weed out the insurgents in their final push.

S.M. Murtasim Shah