Boko Haram - 2014
The year 2014 saw a dramatic uptick in Boko Haram kidnappings as the sect seized territory in the northeast. The sect also grabbed women and girls, forcing them into marriage or labor in its camps, and conscripted men into its ranks. The captives can be seen as a form of “bounty” or “reward” for fighters. “They see potential future soldiers in the boys. They see future wives in the girls and they see current wives in the older women.
Amnesty International said 1,500 people were killed in the first three months of 2014 in an escalating armed conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian security forces. Amnesty said March 30, 2014 that more than half the victims were civilians. Amnesty International calls the rising number of Boko Haram attacks “truly shocking” and the reaction of Nigerian security forces “brutality.” The rights group said both sides may have committed acts that “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity." It called for an investigation by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.
The Nigerian Special Forces involved in the ongoing campaign against the Boko Haram insurgents recorded what security sources described as one the greatest breakthroughs in the campaign against terrorists in the North-East in March 2014. The Special Forces, comprising ground troops and the Air Force fighters, had demobilized one of the strongest fortresses of the Boko Haram sect. The soldiers, who carried out the operation, were shocked by the volume of arms and ammunition and hundreds of operational vehicles that they captured at the camp. A source put the number of vehicles captured from the insurgents at 700.
Boko Haram said it carried out the deadly bombing in the capital, Abuja, that killed at least 71 people on 14 April 2014. Nigerians' confidence in the government and the military's ability to deal with Boko Haram has reached a new low. The Nyanya bus station bombing was Boko Haram's first major attack in the capital in two years, something regional analysts say show its capabilities remain intact despite the almost year-long military offensive against the rebels. Most of Boko Haram's attacks take place in the far northeast. Analysts also say the size and sophistication of the blast suggest the militants have strengthened their connections abroad.
Also on 14 April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 300 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok in Borno State in northern Nigeria. Some escaped, but the kidnappers held more than 270 girls. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video to sell the girls “on the market.” The Nigerian government was widely criticized for not doing enough to find and free these girls. The 30 or so military personnel stationed in Chibok at the time of the abductions put up a fight, but there were too many well-armed extremists.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a new video message on May 5, 2014, in which he threatened to sell the more than 200 teenage schoolgirls the group abducted in April. “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,” he threatened in the hour-long video.
Hundreds of people were feared dead after militants attacked a town in northeastern Nigeria 06 May 2014, setting fire to homes and businesses and shooting residents as they tried to escape. Local officials say suspected Boko Haram militants stormed the town of Gamboru Ngala, on the border with Cameroon, and destroyed it during an attack that lasted several hours. Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper cited residents as saying the attackers burned down more than 250 homes and the town's biggest market, along with a police station. So far in 2014, the group had been responsible for some 1,500 deaths.
Nigerian officials denied a report that 15 officers, including 10 generals, had been court martialed for cooperating with Boko Haram militants. The Leadership newspaper reported the officers were found guilty of giving information and ammunition to the radical Islamist group, which is blamed for thousands of deaths over the past five years. On 04 June 2014, two officials, military spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade and government communications official Mike Olmeri, told VOA the report was "not true."
Fulan Nasrullah of Fulan’s SITREP wrote in August 2014 that "The strategic reasoning behind the current offensive of the Boko Haram/Yusufiyya in Northern Cameroon and WarZone South is simple. The insurgents are creating ’liberated’ territory inside Nigeria, and establishing their authority on the ground. And after realizing that their policy of not antagonizing Yauonde was not paying off (since Cameroon under intense French, American and Nigerian pressure has been preparing to flush out the rear bases of Ansorul-Muslimiin and Harakatul-Muhajiriin from its territory), the insurgents have opened a second front in Cameroon and are carrying out a long prepared contingency plan to destabilize Northern Cameroon and secure their rear bases... To be able to transition from insurgent forces to parallel states (like Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communists did in Yunnan during the Chinese Civil War and World War II), the rebels need to be able to move their camps and forces from Cameroon back cross the border to Nigeria..."
Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst at risk analysis firm Red24, noted that “Since April, Boko Haram has begun appropriating and holding territory within north-eastern Nigeria, particularly within the state of Borno. At the time of writing, Boko Haram has effectively seized control of the Gwoza, Bama and Damboa Local Government Areas (LGAs), raising the Rayat al-Uqab (Black Standard) flags within these areas. Most of the LGAs in the state, bar perhaps Maiduguri and a few surrounding areas, are currently being contested between government forces and the extremist movement.”
In late August 2014 the leader of Boko Haram, Abubaker Shekau, proclaimed an Islamic caliphate in the north eastern Nigerian town of Gwoza, which was seized by the Islamic militants earlier in August. The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) confirmed reports that Gwoza was under Boko Harem control. In a 52-minute video, Shekau said: “Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate, by the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay.” Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas of north eastern Nigeria including the southern part of Borno state as well as much of the territory of northern Borno and one town in neighboring Yobe state. Experts have said the gains made by the Islamic group in recent weeks are unprecedented and they are close to creating an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, mirroring what IS, the Islamic State, has done in Iraq and Syria.
More than 130 members of Boko Haram surrendered to Nigeria's military on 24 September 2014. Mohammed Bashir, a man who had posed as the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau in numerous videos, was also been killed in clashes, the military said. Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said: “In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir, who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau ... known as leader of the group, died.”
In August 2014, Nigeria's military said Shekau may have died of gunshot wounds some weeks after a clash with soldiers. Following the reports, the man appearing in Boko Haram videos appeared to look different, with a rounder, less narrow face and a wider nose. Following the surrender, Nigeria's military released photographs of dozens of detainees sitting on the floor and the alleged body of the leader. A video of the dead commander surfaced on the internet. In the six-second video, the critically wounded ‘Shekau’ was seen lying on the ground writhing in pains as men in military uniform and civilians surround him with some voices saying, “Waste that man! Waste that man!”
Military experts were trying to ascertain whether the dead ‘Shekau’ was Isa Damsaka or Bashir Mohammed, who are both top commanders believed to be posing as Shekau. The security agencies claimed Isa Damsaka or Bashir Mohammed had been mimicking the real Abubakar Shekau, said to have been killed since June 2013. “Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title," Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade said.
The Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, who claims to have worked closely with Abubakar Shekau, said "The fake Skekau is Isa Damsaka. It was confirmed to me by Boko Haram that he was killed in the recent military engagement at Konduga. Most members of Boko Haram have never seen Shekau. They believe what they have been told that Shekau is their leader. The real Shekau is dead. The Shekau the world has been seeing in videos is a “fake” and Boko Haram fighters have been fooled. They have followed blindly. ... Boko Haram leaders have been using him for quite some time to make their propaganda videos. The script is written for him by another commander which he then reads as he delivers his message on-camera.”
Prominent Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkid, who had gotten closer to Boko Haram than any other reporter, expressed skepticism about Shekau’s reported death. “Mark my words: I have it on authority that Shekau is well & alive. The picture going round is NOT the person who torments us with his group.” He later added: “So Shekau has a double? So it was his double who I met during the failed attempt to negotiate an end to the plight of the [abducted Chibok] girls? Oh, Nigeria.”
On 17 October 2014 the Nigerian government said Boko Haram had agreed to a cease-fire and the release of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants in April from the town of Chibok. Subsequently, talks centered on freeing the more than 200 schoolgirls and enforcing the cease-fire agreement. But the large number of kidnappings and deadly attacks since the announcement raised questions about whether all factions of the militant group were on board with the agreement.
In a new video released 01 November 2014, the person identified as Abubakar Shekau said the group is interested in fighting and killing its foes, not in negotiations. He said the issue of the girls taken from Chibok village has been "long forgotten" by Boko Haram. The militant seen in the video said Boko Haram has not negotiated with the government and will not enter any talks. The main claiming to be Shekau said he does not know who supposedly represented the militants in talks with the government.
Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 100 people 14 December 2014 from the village of Gumsuri, Nigeria, after raiding the town and killing 35 other residents, according to survivors of the attack. They said those taken are primarily women and children. Reports of how many people were taken from the Borno state village of Gumsuri range from "more than a 100" to as many as 185. If confirmed, it could be one of Boko Haram's largest kidnappings to date. Local hunters and civilian vigilantes in Gumsuri had "repelled" Boko Haram in previous clashes and killed some militants. Boko Haram is known to come back for revenge.
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