Boko Haram still a threat despite military gains | Africa | DW | 28.04.2015
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Boko Haram still a threat despite military gains

The discovery of hundreds of bodies in Damasak, northeastern Nigeria shows the danger posed by Boko Haram. Residents fear the military is not properly securing territories abandoned by the militants.

The discovery of decomposing bodies in Damasak, near Lake Chad, came as government officials were making plans to resettle thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram's insurgency.

The bodies were found inside home and by the roadside. Some were covered in desert sand. It is unclear when the killings took place. Damasak, located in Borno State's far north, was retaken by Nigerian forces early March.

Grema Terab, chairman of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said there were more than 100,000 people living with relatives or as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state capital Maiduguri. "But we would not allow them to go back to their domains until we (have) fully secured the towns and villages," Terab said.

Mohammadu Buhari, Nigeria's incoming president.

Incoming President Buhari has vowed to defeat Boko Haram

Bulama Mali Gubio, a member of the Borno Elders Forum civil society group called on the Nigerian government to have a permanent presence of troops before the displaced can return. "There is no way people can go back to their homes in the present arrangement, where soldiers leave the areas they retake from Boko Haram the moment the insurgents are pushed out," he said. "Every time soldiers retake a town from Boko Haram the insurgents flee into the bush and lurk around. Once they understand the troops have withdrawn they resurface," he added.

"Unfortunately the outgoing federal government seems to be in a hurry to resettle these people," Tukur Abdulkadir, a political analyst told DW. "They haven't put proper plans in place for some of these people who have been displaced for more than two years," Abdulkadir said. "Houses have not been rebuilt and even explosives have not been cleared."

New attacks by Boko Haram

In one of its first attack in weeks, Boko Haram militants seized a strategic island in Lake Chad from Niger's army. Dozens of Nigerien troops were killed in the raid according to army sources.

The heavily armed fighters, who have sworn their allegiance to the "Islamic State" (IS), used motorized canoes to stage a dawn attack on the island of Karamga on Saturday (26.04.2015).

This follows another attack on Friday in which 21 displaced persons were killed after returning to their homes in Bultaram village, Yobe State. They had apparently gone back to collect abandoned food supplies.

Borno Elder Bulama Mali Gubio said in order to secure and rebuild liberated areas, there was a need for greater cooperation between the government, federal authorities, as well as the international community and private sector. "If we work in cooperation like a colony of ants we shall make substantial progress in six months," he said.

Boko Haram not yet vanquished

Even after Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari called Boko Haram, a "bogus religious outfit" and vowed to crush it, security analysts say recent Boko Haram attacks show they are still present and remain a threat.

Analyst Abdulkadir said he believes incoming President Buhari will do everything in his power to address the Boko Haram insurgency.

Bawa Abdullahi Wase, another analyst said the militants should not be underestimated. "If Boko Haram could retake Marte with all the security deployment there, it goes to show other areas with less security protection can be retaken," said Abdullahi Wase.

A map showing the Nigerian northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

Boko Haram is still a threat in the northeast of Nigeria

According to Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst, at risk consultancy group Red24, Boko Haram may have tactically retreated to northern Cameroon. "Given the prevailing situation, I think one would be hard-pressed to support the repopulation of IDPs in the northeast," Cummings said. He said the condition which made the people vulnerable to violence in the first place, that is the presence of a predatory armed group and a lack of governance remains relevant in the current context.

Cummings warned that military victories against Boko Haram would likely spur the group to carry out retributive attacks against "soft" targets, with civilians caught in the crossfire.

At least 15,000 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million rendered homeless as a result of Boko Haram's insurgency which started in 1999.

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