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Fighting Boko Haram

Al-Amin Muhammad, (Reuters, AFP)
January 26, 2015

After the fall of Monguno to Boko Haram, Nigeria’s military said it was carrying out airstrikes in a bid to reclaim the northeastern town. The Islamists staged multiple attacks as they seek to extend their control.

Image: picture-alliance/epa

Nigeria said normalcy had been restored after Boko Haram's failure to capture Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the birthplace of Boko Haram's 5-year-old insurgency. The Islamists view Maiduguri as the potential capital of an Islamic state or caliphate, which they are seeking to create.

Some analysts have suggested that Boko Haram may be trying to revive a defunct 19th-century Islamic caliphate, whose borders included parts of modern-day Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

A survivor who preferred to remain anonymous told DW that the security situation in Monguno remains tense and unpredictable. "I can confirm to you that Munguno is under total control of Boko Haram, we escaped together with many soldiers."

According to some of the soldiers who fled Monguno, they abandoned the fight because of the insurgents' superior firepower. "There are a lot of women and children in terrifying situation some of them lost their parents and relatives it's really bad," the male survivor added.

Internally displaced persons lining up infront of a building.
UN estimates that more than 650,000 people have been displaced by the violence in the northImage: picture-alliance/AA/Mohammed Abba

At least 15 soldiers were killed in Monguno. More than 25 civilians also lost their lives, a source told Reuters news agency. Also killed were some residents that fled their homes during the attack on Maiduguri. They were said to have been hit by stray bullets.

Eyeing Maiduguri

One witness told DW in an interview that he feared Maiduguri was about to fall into the hands of Boko Haram."We don't know where we are, we don't know where to go and we don't know what to do," the eye witness said in the local Hausa language. "One cannot eat or drink anything because of fear we thought Maiduguri is going be captured that very day but we thank God for saving our lives."

A local journalist said he had counted more than 100 bodies, most of them militants, which were lying at the biggest morgue in Maiduguri. He also said another 50 had been injured.

Map showing Nigeria and Cameroon
Boko Haram has been seeking to extend its control beyond Nigeria

Analysts such as Muhammad Sani believe the insurgents might be targeting the state capital, Maiduguri, to prove that they are still powerful. "Just a day after the presidential visit, the Boko Haram strikes in Maiduguri. This is a surprise to tell us that this sect is powerful," Sani said. He stressed that the authorities need to brace up and convince Nigerians that election will be held in these areas and to redouble their efforts to ensure that safety is guaranteed.

Nigeria goes to the polls on February 14 to elect a new president.

Ryan Cummings, chief analyst for Africa for red24, said he believes Nigeria had prioritized major northeastern towns at the expense of rural villages. "This strategy has facilitated Boko Haram to launch attacks against these settlements."

Reluctance for multinational force

Last Friday, Sambo Dasuki, Nigeria's top security official ruled out the need for a UN or AU-backed force to fight Boko Haram. Dasuki was quoted by AFP saying his country and its partners could handle the threat posed by the insurgents.

Given fears of a threat to regional stability, enhanced international support against Boko Haram will be discussed on the sidelines of an AU summit to be held this week.

Cameroonian soldiers on top of a military truck with heavy weapons
Cameroon has bolstered its forces in the north of the countryImage: AFP/Getty Images/R. Kaze

Ryan Cummings said the reluctance by Africa's most populous nation to accept foreign troops on the ground could be because of issues that have to deal with the country's sovereignty. "The biggest concern by the Nigerian government at this stage is that if it allows foreign forces on its soil, specifically from neighboring countries such as Niger, Cameroon and Chad - with whom the Nigerian government does not always have the best of relations - it could be perceived as undermining the legitimacy of the Nigerian government."

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