The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has criticized the Nigerian government, in a new audio message, for claiming to have regained territorial control from the militant group. The Nigerian government initially claimed to have taken back a number of villages and rescued over 90 people as part of its ‘continuous elimination’ process of rooting out the extremist group.
“They have lied about us saying that they have retaken our territories, taken weapons and driven us away. They are actually the ones whom we have driven away. They are all liars,” says the audio message released online.
The Nigerian government has lately been conducting a number of operations to curb the threat of the militant rebels. This forms part of the agenda set by Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, to eliminate extremist elements in the war-torn country caused by an ongoing civil war between the government and rebels that has cost the lives of thousands of people, and has led to the fleeing of over 500,000 children according to UNICEF.
Muhammadu Buhari, on his visit to the White House in March, was offered military and intelligence support from US President Barack Obama in order to combat the tide of militant attacks in Nigeria. Washington has already committed to financial support of $5million for setting up a trained task force to fight Boko Haram.
The group Boko Haram, which translates to ‘western education is forbidden’ in the Hausa language, has been fighting since 2009 to establish Nigeria as an Islamic state by carrying out a number of attacks on government buildings and police stations. It recently acquired a considerable amount of territory in Northeast Nigeria to which the Nigerian army has claimed to have recaptured.
The group made a nationwide outcry in Nigeria last year in April following the abduction of more than 250 female students from the Government Secondary School in the Chibok town of Borno state. The incident was met with an outpour of condemnation from different countries across the globe and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls trended worldwide on social media. Islamic leaders including the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh AbdulAziz Al-Sheikh described the group as misguided and deviant.
The Nigerian military has also come under scrutiny for failing to safeguard the human rights of its detainees in detention centers.
Amnesty International released a report in June highlighting the substantial amount of human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military, resulting in the brutal deaths of 7,000 rebels in detention centers, as well as the extrajudicial execution of more than a 1,000 people in its fight against the militant group. Amnesty International has also pointed out a number of war crimes committed by the Nigerian military due to the considerable use of torture, starvation, and shootings.
According to analysts, the civil war can only be resolved if the Nigerian government strives to reduce the amount of poverty in the region and builds an education system that is approved by the local Muslims.