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Weakened Boko Haram Remains International Concern

The response of the Lake Chad Basin Commission countries against Boko Haram – notably the joint regional offensive which involved troops from all four countries – has resulted in the recapture of several key towns in northeast Nigeria.

At the beginning of the year, Boko Haram controlled roughly 20 local governmental districts in the three northeastern states in Nigeria. Today, Boko Haram holds only a few areas in Borno State. Moreover, according to reports by the Nigerian Army, on March 27, Boko Haram’s headquarters in Gwoza was captured.

But although weakened, the jihadist group continues to commit horrendous acts against civilians, including women and children, said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the United Nation’s Office for West Africa.

“Boko Haram’s recent allegiance to the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whether for publicity reasons or to tap into ISIL’s support, is also of concern as it is gives a clear signal that Boko Haram’s agenda goes well beyond Nigeria," he stated.

Chambas outlined reports of abduction, abuse, recruiting, maiming and killing of children, saying schools in the country’s northeast and in areas of Cameroon and Niger targeted by Boko Haram are no longer safe places of learning, with many attacked, looted and destroyed.

“In 2014, the group also commenced using young girls as suicide bombers for attacks in populated urban areas,” he said. “We have also observed an alarming trend of children being used by the group as human shields.”

More than 7,300 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014 in the three "state of emergency" states, including 1,000 people this year alone. In addition, Boko Haram’s activities have created tens of thousands of refugees, returnees and internally displaced people in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, with schools and health services badly affected, and frequent reports of gross human rights violations.

Chambas stressed the issue of human rights abuses, pointing to evaluation missions launched by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which visited the far north region of Cameroon and the Diffa region of Niger. Both found human rights abuses, including indiscriminate killing of civilians, abductions and forcible recruitment of civilians into combat.

He also reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s message that a military approach alone would not suffice in containing the Boko Haram threat, and stressed the international community’s obligation to help the countries of the region to address the social, economic and political challenges associated with Boko Haram.

Only pockets of incidents and logistical challenges were reported during Nigeria’s general elections. Election results on April 1 showed ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari defeated the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress party, has become the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria. After the period of transition, it will be interesting to see what line Buhari takes with Boko Haram — he had been criticized in Nigeria and around the world for what was seen as a weak stance against the jihadi organization.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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