Thursday, 22 January 2015

Call for Africa to unite against Boko Haram

Defeating Nigeria’s “dastardly” Boko Haram insurgents requires support from across the continent, African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned yesterday.

“Boko Haram is a threat not only to Nigeria and the region, but also to the continent as a whole,” she said. “The situation calls for renewed collective African efforts.”

Dlamini-Zuma issued a “strong condemnation of the cowardly and dastardly attacks carried out by Boko Haram”.

Her comments followed a regional summit in Niger that discussed how to stop the militants, whose insurgency has killed 13000 people and forced 1.5 million from their homes since 2009.

Regional leaders would meet again on the sidelines of the AU summit at the end of month “to urge enhanced international support”, Dlamini-Zuma added.
Dlamini-Zuma issued a ‘strong condemnation of the cowardly and dastardly attacks carried out by Boko Haram’. File photo Image by: TIKSA NEGERI / REUTERS
She praised Chad’s deployment of troops and 400 military vehicles into neighbouring Cameroon at the weekend to fight Boko Haram.

Meanwhile the leader of the terror group Boko Haram says God commanded that his fighters massacre hundreds of people in northeastern Nigeria, an attack described by human rights groups as the worst so far by the militants.

More than 7,500 people fled the assault that began Jan. 3 on the town of Baga on Lake Chad, according to the United Nations. Survivors described Boko Haram gunmen shooting people on sight, or dragging them from their homes and killing them.

This is just the beginning of the killings. What you’ve just witnessed is a tip of the iceberg. More deaths are coming.

– Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a YouTube video
Claiming responsibility for the massacre, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a YouTube video released Tuesday that the devastation of the Baga attack was nothing compared to future attacks he was planning.

”We are the ones who fought the people of Baga, and we have killed them with such a killing as he [God] commanded us in his book,” said Shekau, as Nigeria and its neighbors worked to deploy a regional force to confront the violent Islamist militia.

“This is just the beginning of the killings,” he said. “What you’ve just witnessed is a tip of the iceberg. More deaths are coming.”

In the 35-minute video, Shekau also burned Nigeria’s flag and declared the country’s constitution dead. “This will mark the end of politics and democracy in Nigeria,” he said as gunmen fired automatic weapons into the air, yelling “God is great.”

Satellite images released last week showed thousands of houses in Baga and neighboring Doron Baga burned down in the attack. An accurate count of how many were killed has not been reached, but they range from several hundred to 2,000 people.

Schoolgirls from the village of Chibok who escaped from Boko Haram kidnappers wait to talk with the governor of Borno state in Maiduguri in June.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has also attacked villages in neighboring Cameroon, abducting dozens of children and adults, but the militia was driven back by Cameroonian forces Monday, freeing many of the prisoners.

The government of Cameroon said Wednesday that its forces had also freed a German hostage, schoolteacher Nitsch Eberhard Robert, with the help of the forces of allies, without specifying which countries were involved. Robert was kidnapped by Boko Haram in Adamawa state last July.

Fighting was reported Tuesday in the northwest Cameroon village of Bonderi, near the border with Nigeria.

Boko Haram is fighting to impose an Islamic state in Nigeria based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. The group opposes democracy and secular education, and has attacked schools, killed male students and teachers and kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls.

Elections are due next month, but won’t take place in the dozens of towns and villages Boko Haram controls in a vast area around the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the militia’s birthplace.

Nigeria unrest

A screen grab from a video shows Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, discussing a massacre in northeastern Nigeria. (AFP/Getty Images)
In the video, Shekau taunted West African leaders who are working to deploy the regional force, and mocked Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, who took part in a recent rally of world leaders in Paris showing solidarity after the terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Baga was to be the headquarters of the 2,800-strong regional force, which was was supposed to be launched in November after an agreement among Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon the month before. But before the Jan. 3 attack on Baga, Niger’s soldiers had departed and the Chadian forces had not yet been deployed, leaving Nigerian forces to confront the militants alone and undermining trust among the neighbors.

Chad sent a force to Cameroon last weekend to help prevent the Boko Haram insurgency from spreading across the region.

When Boko Haram seized Baga, it took over the military base, along with weapons and ammunition. Shekau flaunted an arsenal of sophisticated weaponry in the YouTube video and said he was ready for any attack.

“Kings of Africa, you are late,” he said. “I challenge you to attack me even now. I’m ready.”

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