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2016 - Boko Haram

A February 2015 video was the last time Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seen publicly. His absence since sparked rumors about his death or that hes been replaced, suggesting that Boko Haram was not as strong as it once was, despite numerous suicide bombings and attacks in early 2016. But the continued lack of solid intelligence on Shekaus whereabouts is troublesome, and indicating the Nigerian military's deep lack of resources and organization, and underscoring just how much further it has to go to defeat Boko Haram entirely.

Boko Haram had killed some 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million more since Shekau launched the brutal insurgency in 2009.

In early 2016 there was a spike in Boko Haram activities within northeastern Nigeria but also in surrounding countries. In addition to the attacks in Dalori which is located about 10 km (6 miles) outside Borno state's capital Maiduguri, there was also a Boko Haram attack in Cameroon, in the extreme north province, in the Lac region of Chad, and also a few other bombings specifically in Gombe in Adamawa state.

All of these attacks seemingly targeted civilian interests within the region. So the attack in Dalori in itself marked a shift away from Boko Harams usual modus operandi; a lot of the sect's violence within the past 2-3 years has specifically targeted soft civilian population centers in armed raids, in addition to suicide bombings targeting bustling market places and even public transportation hubs.

In late March 2016 hundreds of hostages were freed in one Nigerian state, but more than a dozen new hostages were seized in a neighboring state. The captives were all held in Nigeria's Borno state, which borders Chad and Niger. At least 520 were freed in the village of Kusumma, and 300 more from 11 other villages that were controlled by the militants.

In August 2016 the Islamic State militant group named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its "Wali" (governor) of its West African Province. The article didn't say so explicitly, but the implication was that al-Barnawi had replaced Abubakar Shekau, the bombastic preacher who had led the group since 2009. Al-Barnawi also reportedly released an audio statement attacking Shekau.

A man claiming to be Shekau responded to this so-called attempted coup with a 10-minute audio statement of his own, briefly posted on YouTube before it was taken down. In the statement, Shekau reasserted his authority over Boko Haram and said that al-Barnawi, a long-time member of the group, is trying to stir up conflict. Shekau accused IS of staging a coup against his leadership. The apparent leadership struggle sparked concerns of an ideological split that could lead to a surge in violence in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

Al-Barnawi is said, by some, to be the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in police custody in 2009; but, that was up for debate. "In choosing one of Yusuf's sons, the Islamic State has shown they understand the importance of continuity of a local vision to their allies," wrote Nigerian analyst Andrew Walker, the author of Eat the Heart of the Infidel. "Concern will intensify that al-Barnawi and his IS backers will take a more international, outward-looking path." The new leader who is vowing to bomb churches and kill all Christians. Under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram has been known to kill not only Christians but also Muslims who oppose the terrorist group. Al-Barnawi, who was formerly believed to be just the group's spokesman, vowed to end attacks on mosques and vowed to attack more churches.

Nigerias Air Force on 23 August 2016 claimed to have fatally wounded Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and several other high-ranking members of the group in air strikes carried out against the terrorist organizations headquarters. Sani Usman, a spokesman for the Nigerian Air Force said in a statement that Shekau was fatally wounded in the shoulder when government planes bombed the Boko Haram jungle stronghold in the Sambisa Forest. Other Boko Haram leaders killed in the raid, according to Usman, include Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman. Several others were confirmed wounded. Nigeria had previously claimed to have killed Shekau, but those claims were later thrown into doubt when video surfaced showing a man claiming to be Shekau alive and well.

Nigerias chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, said 16 September 2016 " ... the ability of the Boko Haram terrorist group to move freely as they were doing before, the ability to hold ground, the ability to take on territories or ransack large communities and towns has been virtually eliminated. ... To the best of our knowledge and all well-meaning Nigerians who know the happenings in the northeast, they know that those are just empty, boastful positions of the Boko Haram terrorists. They have nothing to show and indeed they are just trying to show their prowess in terms of propaganda."

Nigeria is in need of $164 million in humanitarian funding to prevent thousands of deaths from malnutrition in its war-torn northeast, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator said in July 2016. The ongoing conflict between Nigerias military and the Boko Haram insurgency was to blame for the growing hunger crisis in the northeast. The seven-year-old war has disrupted planting and marketplaces, killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.7 million to flee in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Toby Lanzer, the UNs regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, said 4.4 million people in northeastern Nigeria are severely food insecure, but the country doesnt have the resources to tackle this problem alone.

Sure enough, as usual, the leader of jihadist group Boko Haram reappeared in a video posted on social media 25 September 2016, saying he is in good health and rejecting statements by the Nigerian army he has been seriously wounded. Speaking in Hausa, Arabic and English and in dialects spoken in northeast Nigeria, a man purporting to be Abubakar Shekau said in a 40-minute video addressed to the military, "You broadcast the news and published it in the social media that you injured or killed me, and here I am.

Sekau issued threats against President Muhammadu Buhari, who had appealed to the United Nations for help in negotiating the release of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the militants more than two years ago. "To the tyrants of Nigeria in particular and the west of Africa in general, die in your anger and the news is not like as you claimed and as you distributed, because you broadcast the news and published it in your media outlets that you injured me and killed me and here I am, telling you if God willing, you tyrants I am fine and secured if God willing and nothing has hit me and I will not get killed until my time comes," he said.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari told the 21 Chibok girls rescued in October 2016 that he will redouble efforts to find those still missing two years after their kidnapping. We shall redouble our efforts to bring the rest back home, Buhari said Wednesday. Aside from rescuing them, we are assuming the responsibility for their personal, educational and professional goals and ambitions in life. It is not late for the girls to go back to school and continue the pursuit of their studies.

The Nigerian army has defeated Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest, one of the jihadists' last remaining strongholds, President Muhammadu Buhari said 24 December 2016. A campaign lasting for months in the 1,300 square-kilometre (500 square-mile) forest in northeastern Borno state led to the "final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest", Buhari said in a statement.

The government in Abuja and the military have frequently claimed victories against the Islamic State (IS) group affiliate but access to the epicentre of the conflict in Borno state is strictly controlled. That has made independent verification of official statements about victories virtually impossible. Attacks have meanwhile continued, making claims of defeating Boko Haram questionable despite undoubted progress in pushing back the group.

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Page last modified: 24-12-2016 19:37:43 ZULU