At least 50 Nigerian soldiers were killed in a recent ambush conducted by Boko Haram extremists in the country’s northern Yobe state, near the town of Goneri. Details of the attack were provided by a source from the Nigerian military on Monday, March 23rd, who claimed the attack occurred as state soldiers were preparing for “an offensive against the Boko Haram militants.” This source, who lacked the governmental authorization to speak with the media about the ambush, has requested to remain anonymous and keep their identity a secret. Local eye witnesses, who conveyed information by telephone to the German press agency DPA, reported that there could be as many as 75 total deaths. Luckily however, surviving soldiers held off a violent array of “rocket-propelled grenades and guns” long enough to escape. Victims are currently being treated at hospitals in the Nigerian cities of Damaturu and Maiduguri.
On Tuesday, March 24th, Nigerian Major General John Enenche spoke to journalists in the capital city of Abuja, confirming an unspecified, but substantial, number of “casualties in the unfortunate attack.” Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera also reported that the Nigerian military believed that“the situation had subsided,” after calling upon the Air Force to “[raid] the positions of the [Boko Haram] fighters.”
Tragically, this was not Boko Haram’s only act of violence over the weekend, as the militant group also launched a similar ambush upon soldiers in the neighboring country of Chad. According to BBC, at least 92 Chadian soldiers have been confirmed dead as a result of this attack. Reportedly, this is Boko Haram’s “deadliest” military operation in Chad, and Chadian President Idriss Déby emphasized this before Reuters, stating, “never in our history have we lost so many men at one time.”
Boko Haram, which in the Hausa dialect means “western education is forbidden,” formed in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern states. In an effort to create an Islamic caliphate across west Africa and to impose Sharia law, Boko Haram has imposed a reign of terror across much of the region. Since 2009, the group has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, and over 2.5 million people have been displaced as a result of the violence. Boko Haram became headline news in 2014 when they kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Borno, a northeastern Nigerian state along the borders of Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. The United States, who formally designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organization in 2013, sent 80 troops to the region to aid local efforts in the search for the missing girls.
The kidnapping sparked international outrage, and western media organizations were quick to report live and updated information to western audiences. The popular #BringBackOurGirls campaign quickly emerged on social media, and well renowned celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Angelina Jolie, and even former First Lady Michelle Obama became quite vocal in leading the global call and demand for action. However, as years have gone by, Boko Haram and the kidnapped girls have appeared less and less in mainstream media, despite the fact that over a hundred girls still remain unaccounted for.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has certainly contributed to this lack of coverage, having downplayed the threat of Boko Haram during his bid for re-election in 2019. Amidst his campaign, Buhari reportedly “[boasted] about his progress battling Boko Haram,” and claimed that his administration had “technically defeated,” the militant group. Since the election, Buhari has failed to elevate his concern for Boko Haram, having done little more than call the terrorists “a nuisance.”
Until last weekend, Boko Haram has been virtually isolated from news coverage in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic has justifiably dominated the covers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, Boko Haram cannot be allowed to rein terror on west Africa, and the world must be kept up to date on their latest humanitarian crimes. President Buhari appears both unlikely and unwilling to change his policies towards Boko Haram, which ultimately puts his own population at risk. Hopefully, the recent attacks in Nigeria and Chad can serve as a reminder to the entire world that Boko Haram is still a credible security threat to millions of people.
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