1,000 Boko Haram captives freed in ongoing battle

by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, May 11, 2018 (5 months ago)

BORNO STATE, Nigeria (BP) -- More than 1,000 captives were freed and 50 Boko Haram terrorists killed this week in ongoing fighting in Borno State, Nigerian military officials said.

Nigeria has not said whether the latest civilians freed from Boko Haram captivity include nearly 115 schoolgirls still missing from Chibok and Dapchi. These 82 schoolgirls are the last known to have been freed in relation to the 2014 Chibok kidnapping.
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Women, children and a few young men forced to fight for Boko Haram comprised the freed captives, Nigerian Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu said in a May 7 press release. He did not give an exact number of those freed, but said the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) retrieved the captives from Boko Haram enclaves in four villages in the Baba local government area of Borno State.

One of the men freed, whom Chukwu identified as Alhaji Gambo Gulumbo from Amchaka Village, "thanked the Nigerian military for showing them love and care," Chukwu said in his release. Those freed were being treated in a military hospital.

Chukwu did not say whether the freed captives included the lone Christian girl still missing after Boko Haram kidnapped 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi in February, nor any of 100 or so schoolgirls still missing in Boko Haram's April 2014 kidnapping in Chibok. Since 2013, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in northeast Nigeria, UNICEF said in an April report.

The death of 50 Boko Haram fighters was revealed May 8 in comments Chukwu made to CNN, the news agency reported that day, regarding the battle that began April 28 and was ongoing. The developments are perhaps the latest successes in the MJTF's Operation Lafiya Dole offensive against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

Between December 2017 and February 2018 in Lafiya Dole, the MJTF freed 3,475 civilians Boko Haram held captive in hideouts around the Sambisa Forest, the terrorists' stronghold in northeast Nigeria, according to statistics released by the International Crisis Group. The group bills itself at crisisgroup.org as an independent peace initiative founded in 1995 in response to wars in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

During the same two-month period in northeast Nigeria, the MJTF killed 186 Boko Haram terrorists and arrested 34 suspected members, Crisis Group said, attributing its numbers to a Feb. 14 statement by Operation Lafiya Dole Maj. Gen. Rogers Nicholas. More than 800 Boko Haram insurgents surrendered during the period.

The MJTF's work continues more than two years after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a technical defeat of the terrorists in December 2015 just months after the Lafiya Dole operation began. At that time, Nigeria's military said Boko Haram was surrendering "en masse" to the MJTF, at that time composed of 8,700 soldiers from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.

Boko Haram remains a threat in Nigeria, according to news reports, and has aided and even impersonated militant Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria's Middle Belt. Militant herdsmen have killed hundreds of Christian farmers since late 2017. The Christian Association of Nigeria led nationwide protests against the herdsmen on two consecutive Sundays April 29 and May 6, with churches across Nigeria participating.

Boko Haram has killed an estimated 30,000 Christians, moderate Muslims, military officials and others in northeast Nigeria and surrounding regions in the past nine years, has displaced 3 million civilians and has created a humanitarian crisis of starvation, according to numerous reports.

In an April 30 meeting with Buhari, U.S. President Donald Trump encouraged the Nigerian president to enact widespread, peaceful solutions to the violence and to protect all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion, according to press reports.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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