Boko Haram proved unable to interrupt the recent national elections. While the Islamic terror group has killed some 10,000 people in the last year, their activities have been greatly diminished by the recent offensive by a coalition of troops from neighboring countries (especially Chad and Niger) in addition to Nigerian soldiers. Boko Haram had become accustomed to the poorly lead and inept Nigerian troops and appear to have been surprised by the more effective forces from Cameroon, Chad and Niger. With only about 4,000 full time armed members, Boko Haram lost about half that force to casualties, capture and desertion since the joint offensive began in late February. Despite the heavy losses in personnel, equipment and facilities Boko Haram is still active and still popular with many young Moslem men in the north. While the number of new recruits is down, if only because Boko Haram is harder to find now, they are still coming in and the Islamic terror organization is rebuilding in new camps out in the bush. Civilian deaths are way down for the first three months of 2015, but still amount to nearly 1,500. Many of those were young Moslem men who refused to join Boko Haram when the Islamic terrorists came to their village. Many of those who did join in these situations were quick to desert when they had the opportunity and account for many of the Boko Haram desertions in the last two months. This offensive has been very productive for intelligence specialists because the civilians in liberated towns and villages provided much detail on who the Boko Haram were and how they operated. There were also more details on many of the kidnapped women the Boko Haram held. Soldiers also found many mass graves, because it was common for occupying Boko Haram forces to kill large numbers of people to terrify the rest into compliance.
For the last two months most of the military operations in the northeast have included some foreign troops. This is the result of forming the MNJTF Multi-National Joint Task Force). Consisting of troops from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria, the new forces quickly defeated most Boko Haram groups they encountered as they swept the Islamic terrorists from towns and villages that had been occupied since mid-2014. The foreign members of MNJTF are eager to push Boko Haram as far away from their borders as possible. In conjunction with the MNJTF operations inside Nigeria each of the coalition nations are also sweeping the areas on their side of the Nigerian border to force Boko Haram men back into Nigeria, or kill those who don’t take the hint.
Boko Haram doesn’t just kill. Since early 2014 Boko Haram has kidnapped and enslaved over 2,000 young women (most of them teenagers) in the north. Most of these were Christian, who are seen as fair game by Islamic terrorists. Few of these captives have been found and liberated. The recent offensive against Boko Haram resulted in over a hundred of these captive women being murdered by Boko Haram to ensure they were not freed by advancing soldiers. Given the gruesome details of captivity provided by the few that have gotten away, it appears that the Islamic terrorists wanted to avoid more bad publicity. Nothing in Islamic scripture justifies the way some of these women were treated.
The UN is trying to raise nearly $200 million to run refugees camps for nearly 200,000 Nigerians who have fled to adjacent countries since 2009 to avoid Boko Haram violence. Most of these refugees fled in the past year. Over a million other refugees found sanctuary inside Nigeria. While most resist calls to return home because they are not sure Boko Haram is gone for good, many also fear their Christian neighbors. While a minority in the north, there are still many largely Christian villages and neighborhoods where defensive militias have been formed and Boko Haram has been kept out. But stories (some of them real) of Moslem neighbors turning on nearby Christians (often to avoid retribution from Boko Haram) has many Christians seeking (and exacting) revenge on their returning Moslem neighbors. It will take a while for these hatreds to subside. Meanwhile Boko Haram has caught the attention of Christians worldwide. That’s because in 2013 over 2,100 Christians were killed worldwide for their beliefs and that number nearly doubled in 2014. In 2013 some 29 percent of those deaths were in Nigeria and that rose in 2014 to nearly half. Most of the other deaths were in Syria, where regional hostility towards Christians has long been very intense. Some 90 percent of the worldwide Christian deaths (for religious reasons) were at the hands of Islamic terrorists and al Qaeda in Syria and Nigeria. Boko Haram and ISIL are the worst offenders accounting for over 80 percent of the martyred Christians in 2013 and 2014. This has led to increased fear, anxiety and paranoia in the largely Christian south. Nearly a third of the world population is Christian and at least 100 million of them are constantly threatened by anti-Christian militants. Nowhere is the threat more intense right now than in northeast Nigeria. So far the Christians in the south have refrained from retaliation, but some Christians in the north have been less Christian about the situation.
The government hopes to get Nigeria out of the headlines, because all that grim news is bad for business, especially foreign businesses looking for places to invest. Boko Haram has scared people worldwide. This was made clear in a recent survey of the security situation worldwide. This effort produced a list of the most dangerous countries as of early 2015. These were (starting with the most dangerous); Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Ukraine and Egypt. Studies like this are done mainly to find the least violent nations. This provides investors and tourists with useful information. Nigeria is so high on the list mainly because of Boko Haram, followed by the massive corruption (which scares away foreign investors more than the actual violence). Newly elected president Buhari says he will quickly deal with both problems. A year from now other international surveys will make it clear how well that went.
April 11, 2015: Nationwide local elections (for state governments and governors) were held. Boko Haram was unable to disrupt these. The PDP (the ruling party for the last 16 years) has a long history of rigging votes but was unable to do enough cheating this time around. That did not work this time. The PDP only won governor races in ten of 29 states that were contested. Most PDP victories were in the south, where it always had its main support. There was less election-related violence, but at least nine people were shot dead on election day.
April 9, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Nigerian soldiers began sweeping the Sambisa Forest. This included chasing out the few Boko Haram men still in the four towns (Bita, Izge, Yamteke and Uba). This forest is a large (60,000 square kilometers), hilly, sparsely populated area where the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states meet. It has long been a hideout for Boko Haram.
April 8, 2015: Off the coast three Nigerian men were kidnapped from a boat carrying supplies to an offshore well. Security on tankers in the area has improved because of the pirates but there are not enough security personnel to guard all the service boats supporting the offshore oil facilities.
April 7, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Nigerian troops captured several Boko Haram camps in the forests around Alagarno. Apparently the Islamic terrorists using these camps were not numerous or determined enough to defend their bases and fled, leaving behind lots of vehicles, weapons and other equipment.
April 5, 2015: On the northeast (Borno) what appeared to be a carload of itinerant Moslem preachers arrived at a village and announced they wanted to preach and leave. This is not unusual so many people assembled at the local mosque where the “preachers” revealed themselves as Boko Haram and opened fire on the villagers. Other Boko Haram then appeared and looted the place before burning half of it down and leaving. There were over a hundred casualties among the villagers including at least 24 dead.
April 3, 2015: In the northeast (10 kilometers outside the state capital of Borno) Boko Haram raided a weekly market, killed for people, looted the place for food and then left before local defense forces arrived. Now that most Boko Haram are living in new camps out in the forests they have to raid regularly just to have enough food and fuel. Across the border in Chad some Boko Haram have apparently set up new camps. The evidence is Boko Haram raids on locals. Finding and destroying these camps is easier in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger because Boko Haram has far less popular support in these countries. That’s because the government in Nigeria is far more corrupt and incompetent and that has created the fanatic support for radical groups like Boko Haram that promise a solution. In the neighboring countries Boko Haram is generally seen as a bunch of murderous foreigners who must be resisted (or reported) at every opportunity.
April 2, 2015: In the northeast (Gombe) a bomb went off at a bus station killing ten. Boko Haram was believed responsible.
April 1, 2015: In the northeast, on the Niger border, troops from Chad and Niger drove Boko Haram from Malam Fatori, a town the Islamic terrorists had held since November. The attackers reported losing nine dead while killing several hundred Boko Haram.
March 31, 2015: In a historic first president Jonathan called his election rival, Muhammadu Buhari and conceded the election. This was the first time this had ever happened in Nigerian history. Presidents running for reelection have never lost before, largely because of fraud and intimidation. Buhari, a former dictator (in the 1980s when he was in his 40s), has since rehabilitated himself and become a respected advocate for clean government and the suppression of corruption. Buhari is a Moslem and has come out strongly for suppressing Boko Haram and reforming the military (which has long been crippled by corruption and poor leadership).
March 30, 2015: In the northeast Boko Haram tried to attack a town (Bossa) just across the border in Niger but were repulsed by troops from Niger and Chad. The attackers lost at least 47 men along with dozens of vehicles and large quantities of weapons and ammunition.