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Nigeria Defense Minister: Military Made Gains Against Boko Haram

  • James Butty

FILE - Soldiers are seen on a truck along a road in Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria.

FILE - Soldiers are seen on a truck along a road in Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria.

Nigeria’s defense minister said the military under President Muhammadu Buhari has made enormous gains in the fight against Boko Haram.

Retired General Dan Ali said Wednesday the military has reclaimed much of the land once occupied by the terrorist group and that Boko Haram has been reduced to waging mostly guerrilla warfare. “Within one year, the coming of our president has changed the game. Look at what was happening before whereby three states, the whole eastern region, was under the terrorists. Now we may have maybe two local governments,” he said.

Ali said the military should be able to clear the terrorists out of the Sambisa Forest within two or three months.

Shortly after President Buhari was inaugurated as president in May 2015, he confidently declared that Boko Haram would be defeated by the end of the year. Before 2015 was over, Buhari announced that he had succeeded in his pledge, claiming that Boko Haram is now "technically defeated".

Ali said President Buhari’s regional and international approach to the fight against Boko Haram has also made a huge difference. “We have been receiving specialized training and intelligence sharing. If you can remember, my president has been going around. In the fact, the five neighbors, including Cameroon, Chad, Benin, have been integrity. We are all working together and we are sharing information, and the international community is also advising us in the right direction,” Ali said.

On the identity of the would-be girl suicide bomber who told Cameroon authorities this week that she is one of the 276 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014, Ali said the Nigerian military has information that while the girl was captured from Chibok, she was not among the 276 captured in 2014.

“She was one of the Chibok girls but not associated with the earlier ones. We have gotten a report on that that the girl was taken from Chibok but not among those that were earlier captured,” he said.

General Ali said the Nigerian military has been trying to find the girls, but apparently Boko Haram has dispersed them in different locations.

“All along we have been trying to track them [the girls]. Specifically, if I tell you that they are in a specific place, it is difficult. Nobody can keep all 250 girls in a particular place. So these girls might have been distributed. Remember that for some time now, they have been using these girls as bombers,” he said.