Nigeria Boko Haram: Militants 'technically defeated' - Buhari

  • 24 December 2015
  • From the section Africa
Media captionMuhammadu Buhari: "Technically, we have won the war"

Nigeria has "technically won the war" against Islamist Boko Haram militants, President Muhammadu Buhari says.

He told the BBC that the militant group could no longer mount "conventional attacks" against security forces or population centres.

It had been reduced to fighting with improvised explosives devices (IED) and remained a force only in its heartland of Borno state, he said.

Boko Haram has been described as one of the world's deadliest terror groups.

Critics of the government argue that it has exaggerated the scale of its success against the militants, and that each time the army claims to have wiped out Boko Haram, the militants have quietly rebuilt.

The group's six-year insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria has led to the deaths of some 17,000 people, destroyed more than 1,000 schools and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The president says that key to the defeat of Boko Haram is reorganising, retraining and reequipping the army
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Islamist insurgency has kept about one million children out of school in Nigeria and three neighbouring states, the UN children's agency said earlier this week

President Buhari has given the army until the end of this year to defeat the group - a deadline that is likely to be extended as Boko Haram is still bombing some areas despite losing towns under its control.

But he told the BBC that the jihadists had been all but driven out from Adamawa and Yobe states, and their way of operating curtailed.

"Boko Haram has reverted to using improvised explosive devices (IEDs)," he said. "Indoctrinating young guys... they have now been reduced to that.

"But articulated conventional attacks on centres of communication and populations.. they are no longer capable of doing that effectively.

"So I think technically we have won the war because people are going back into their neighbourhoods. Boko Haram as an organised fighting force, I assure you, that we have dealt with them."

Image copyright Boko Haram video
Image caption Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and often displays its trademark black flag

Only a few days ago, Islamic State, to whom Boko Haram is affiliated, said its West Africa division had launched more than 100 attacks - killing more than 1,000 people - over the past two months, the Site Intelligence Group, with monitors jihadist websites, reported.

Bokon Haram has also broadened its threat to neighbouring countries, around the Lake Chad region. It reportedly killed five people in a raid in Niger earlier this week.

Mr Buhari said that Nigeria had reorganised and reequipped the military, which had received training from the British, the Americans and the French.

A key priority for the government now, he said, is to rebuild infrastructure and help all displaced people to return to their homes.

Boko Haram at a glance:

  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS's "West African province"
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory this year

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