Boko Haram Still a Threat Months After 'Technical Victory'

Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 11:51 AM

More than four months after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made such a claim, the extremists still crisscross international borders, avoiding direct confrontations with U.

Here on the front line against Boko Haram, number one boasts of having "technically" won the war.

More than four months after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made such a claim, the extremists still crisscross international borders, avoiding direct confrontations with U. S.-backed African forces while refocusing on soft targets love marketplaces and mosques with small to no protection.

The grouping may be gone from major cities, but in the countryside it poses a fixed threat. And for the hundreds of thousands of refugees and impoverished villagers surrounded by fighting in the isolated northern reaches of Cameroon, terror and hunger form daily challenges to their survival.

"All of you who are attempting to fight this terror, the United States stands with you," said Samantha Power, America'south U. N. ambassador, making a scarce visit by any foreign dignitary, let alone a U. S. Cabinet member, to this parched, dusty landscape dotted by thatched-roofed huts and meandering goats and donkeys.

Underscoring the insecurity, Power traveled with a large contingent of U. S. and Cameroonian special forces. A Cameroonian helicopter monitored overhead.

But in a tragic accident, an armored jeep in Power'south motorcade stuck a 7-year-old boy who darted onto the road, killing him instantly. She traveled back to the scene of the incident several hours later to proposal her condolences to his parents and "our grief and heartbreak."

Power'south larger goal of pairing military efforts with greater development of W Africa'south impoverished, Boko Haram-ravaged regions is daunting. They've suffered generations of neglect.

In Maroua, an enclave some eight hundred miles from the Cameroonian capital sandwiched between Chad and Nigeria, shortages of water, schools and investment are chronic.

Activists, opposition politicians and Muslim clerics declare the extremists will draw Maroua'south disaffected youth to their ranks as long as economic opportunities are Ltd and security forces continue committing random atrocities while trying to stamp out the insurgency.

Military force should be portion of the counter-terror effort, Power told reporters.

"They've guns. The have suicide vests. They've armored vehicles," she said.

But Power said that targeting civilians is self-defeating because doing so only creates more potential recruits, echoing counterinsurgency lessons the United States learned the tough way in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since the Sept. eleven, two thousand one, attacks.

Excessive military force is a problem that appears omnipresent in the region.

In its flagship Human Rights Report released latest week, the State Dept chided Nigerian forces for killings, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, prisoner abuse and destruction of property while countering Boko Haram.

One Nigerian state government recently acknowledged burying hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims in a mass grave after they were killed in army raids.

Pushed from pop centers by Nigeria'south military since Buhari'south election latest year, Boko Haram is changing its tactics.

It launched one hundred fifty-nine suicide bombings latest year, more than half in Nigeria, increasingly using girls to set off the explosives. The consequence has increased suspicion even on children

And buoyed by its alliance with the Islamic State, Boko Haram is employing increasingly slick messaging — as evidenced in some recent videos. As of now, however, U. S. executive aren't sure about how deep the operational links between the two groups run.

The war against Boko Haram has killed maybe 20.000 people in this decade, and possibly distant more. Some 2.4 million are displaced throughout the region. More than sixty % of these are children. Millions more face dire food shortages.

Boko Haram, which espouses an extreme form of conservative Islam, also has kidnapped and raped hundreds of girls. These comprise more than two hundred they still keep two years after seizing them from their school in the town of Chibok, drawing worldwide condemnation.

Power met with one such baby at the Minawao refugee camp, which currently houses nearly 60.000 people. It was designed to host 20.000. Less than fifty miles away, Boko Haram'south fighters cover in the wilderness.

"She's nothing to be ashamed of. She's intrepid and powerful and beautiful," Power said of the 14-year-old girl, who painfully recounted the terrible choice she was given between death and forced marriage. Her title was withheld because she's a child victim.

In the tiny city of Mokolo, Haulatu Usman, a 28-year-old widow, recounted to Power how she was able to flee with her five children from Nigeria when Boko Haram fighters entered her village, guns ablazing. She doesn't imagine ever returning.

"They're around but we don't look them," she said of Boko Haram.

Some security gains are evident, even if number one cited anything love Buhari'south assessment from December that "technically we've won the war" because Boko Haram can number longer launch conventional attacks or confront African military forces directly.

With the assistance of some two hundred U. S. special forces in Cameroon, W African nations are at long latest enhancing their intelligence sharing, military coordination and counterterrorism planning. But Boko Haram has been on the running before and regained strength.

Midjiwaya Bakari, Maroua'south governor, said security gains in his region have led to a dramatic reduce in suicide bombings over the latest three months. The drop, he said, has been replaced by an uptick in another fatal threat posed by Boko Haram: roadside bombs.

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