Boko Haram fighters starve to the point of surrender

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 3/02/16, 12:20 pm

Dozens of starving Boko Haram fighters and supporters have surrendered to local authorities, according to the Nigerian military, highlighting its success in blocking the terror group’s food supply routes.

A senior military officer said 76 people, including women and children, turned themselves in to local authorities in the town of Gwoza in Borno State. The detainees revealed more fighters want to surrender. Authorities are currently holding them at the military headquarters in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.

In September, Nigeria’s military began blocking the terrorists’ access to food. Officials reported dozens of Boko Haram fighters surrendered in September and October after the military promised rehabilitation through a de-radicalization program to those who voluntarily gave themselves up.

“It’s a sign of desperation on their part,” said James Forest of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “If Boko Haram is such that their ideology does not seem appealing to the population, they wouldn’t have to resort to these extortion tactics.”

The six-year insurgency has displaced more than 2 million people and killed some 20,000 others. The Nigerian military and troops from neighboring countries have driven the insurgents from towns and villages, but the extremist group continues to launch attacks, especially with suicide bombers.

“Scattered, demoralized, and hungry, they have resorted to terror tactics available to a degraded and defeated insurgent group,” said Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, in a Feb. 16 press conference. “The fact that they operate in a few local governments does not equate to holding and controlling territories.”

Since he took office in May, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has replaced military leadership, increased military cooperation with neighboring countries, and relocated the headquarters for fighting extremism to the center of the crisis in northeastern Nigeria—all part of his agenda to end the insurgency.

But Boko Haram was originally founded in 2002, with its uprising fully organized by 2009. Given the time they had to deal with the extremist group, experts say local authorities did little to prevent Boko Haram’s reign of terror. Forest suggested the solution lies in a deeper understanding of Boko Haram’s dimensions.

“The bottom line for effective counterterrorism is it has to be contextual,” he said. “There’s a lot of facets to combating terrorism, and you have to apply a different mixture of those facets in different ways, according to the local context.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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