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Nigerian Military Says It Foiled 'Extensive Terrorist Operation'

  • Heather Murdock

Nigerian soldiers are seen patrolling a town in the north-eastern state of Borno in this April 30, 2013, file photo.

Nigerian soldiers are seen patrolling a town in the north-eastern state of Borno in this April 30, 2013, file photo.

The Nigerian military says it has killed three insurgents and captured 25 while foiling what it calls an "extensive terrorist operation" in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, at the epicenter of the insurrection by the group known as Boko Haram. Communication networks remain shut down making it hard to confirm or deny the military's account.

Besides stopping the attack and either arresting or killing all of the plotters, the Nigerian military says it has intercepted messages that urge Boko Haram insurgents to fight on against what the military calls a “massive” offensive against the group.

The defense ministry also says it has captured one of the country’s “most wanted" terrorists, a man named only as Abba, and one soldier was killed in the battle.

Fleeing insurgents, it says, now have fewer places to run because several towns on Nigeria's borders have been taken over by government troops.

But public communications networks are down, roads are blocked and there are no independent observers reporting from the fronts, so none of the military reports are verifiable. There has also been no word from Boko Haram, which usually contacts the public only through YouTube videos, blocked phone lines, and untraceable emails.

Some analysts fear the information blackout is an intentional cover-up of human-rights abuses. International rights groups and the U.S. government have previously accused Nigeria's military of killing suspects before arresting them, or arresting them without evidence.

But Wole Olaoye, a Nigerian journalist for nearly four decades, says these accusations do not account for the reality of a war with Boko Haram, an organization that claims ties to al-Qaida and has been blamed for more than 3,000 deaths.

Soldiers, he says, can neither arrest people that are shooting at them nor identify un-uniformed Boko Haram members without questioning them.

“The very thin line between doing their duty, between doing one's duty as a soldier and extra-judicial killing, almost disappears. Because they have said 'It is war,' now the government will now provide all the facilities. There will be prisoners of war. There will be protocols for all of these things,” Olaoye said.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states on May 14 and sent thousands of soldiers to battle Boko Haram. Since then, the military says it has captured hundreds of militants and killed dozens.

The government says it is also trying to negotiate with Boko Haram and has promised to release hundreds of prisoners, including all women and children held in association with the insurgency.

But some analysts say the conflict could continue past the planned six-month emergency rule and they suspect the military is exaggerating its successes and playing down its losses.

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