News / Africa

Visit to Boko Haram Zone Leaves Unanswered Questions

Visit to Northern Nigeria Leaves Many Unanswered Questionsi
X
June 08, 2013 2:20 AM
For the first time since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states last month, the Nigerian military has allowed journalists to visit the front lines of its battle with militants known as Boko Haram. But as Heather Murdock reports for VOA, in many ways the trip left many questions unanswered.
Visit to Northern Nigeria Leaves Many Unanswered Questions
Heather Murdock
In the three and a half weeks since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states, thousands of troops have been deployed and the military says it has cleared out several camps belonging to the militant group Boko Haram. For the first time since all this began, journalists were allowed to visit the battle zone this week, including Heather Murdock who filed this story for VOA.

We enter the military plane from a ramp in the back and once on board, we write our names on the handwritten manifest, hoping this trip to northern Nigeria will answer a lot of questions.  
 
Are Boko Haram insurgents still strong in northern Nigeria?  Are there as few military casualties as they say?  Have civilians been killed?

At an impromptu prss conference, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade says definitively that civilians have not been killed, despite accusations from international organizations that Nigerian security forces are prone to shoot before arresting, and to make arrests without charges or trials.  
 
“Anyone that was killed in a camp cannot call themselves a civilian.  Most of the camps are populated definitely by terrorists and they’re the objects of this operation.”
 
Other questions he says he cannot answer, like how many soldiers or insurgents have been killed.
 
“The operation is still on and the information is being collated," he said. "In many of the locations we are still mopping up and until we finish mopping up it is wrong to give you any inaccurate figure because we know the implications of such figures to the international community.”
 
We do get a glimpse into what Nigerian soldiers are facing when they take us to a campsite outside the Kirenowa village.
 
Some soldiers say Boko Haram militants fled when the Nigeria military advanced. Other said they were well armed and fought back. (VOA/Heather Murdock)Some soldiers say Boko Haram militants fled when the Nigeria military advanced. Other said they were well armed and fought back. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
x
Some soldiers say Boko Haram militants fled when the Nigeria military advanced. Other said they were well armed and fought back. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
Some soldiers say Boko Haram militants fled when the Nigeria military advanced. Other said they were well armed and fought back. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
Hours away from the nearest city and far from the nearest road, soldiers guard what they say once was a Boko Haram hideout, a hot dusty patch of brush where they found burnt out cars, medical supplies and discarded clothing.  
 
“So this is where they keep their injured," said a lieutenant colonel, who gave the journalists a tour. "They keep their injured here.  They treat them here.  They have a medical doctor here.  And from the size you can see they have a lot of injured here.”
 
Back at the base, soldiers say northern Nigeria is safe, or at least safer than it used to be.  But the compound is heavily guarded and nearly everyone is wearing body armor.  
 
After we leave the camp, the officers take us to Kirenowa, where locals gather at a military-led village assembly.  One speaker points out that since farming was halted because of the offensive, they want the government or the international community to provide tractors so they don’t lose this year’s crops.
 
Ahmed, a resident, says he’s glad Boko Haram has left the area. He says in their fourth year of insurgency, Boko Haram militants had permeated his town and were killing some people and extorting money from others.  But now, he says, they have other problems because their farms have been left untended.
 
“Here too we don’t have food.  Any way we are getting the food is closed [off].  We don’t have enough food.”

The Nigerian military says it has quieted Boko Haram activities in the city of Maiduguri, but there is still a 9 p.m. curfew. (VOA/Heather Murdock)The Nigerian military says it has quieted Boko Haram activities in the city of Maiduguri, but there is still a 9 p.m. curfew. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
x
The Nigerian military says it has quieted Boko Haram activities in the city of Maiduguri, but there is still a 9 p.m. curfew. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
The Nigerian military says it has quieted Boko Haram activities in the city of Maiduguri, but there is still a 9 p.m. curfew. (VOA/Heather Murdock)
Ahmed doesn’t appear to be intimidated by the nearby soldiers, but he does fall quiet as an officer comes close. Some soldiers say Boko Haram fled when the military moved into the area. Others say the militants were "armed to the teeth" and put up a fight.
 
At the base in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and the heart of the insurgency, one officer shows us scores of weapons and vehicles.  He says the military has captured them from Boko Haram and shows us anti-aircraft guns and a pickup truck with a mount for a machine gun.
 
Security forces say Boko Haram, which has been blamed for thousands of deaths and says it wants to impose a harsh version of Islamic law in the north, became increasingly violent in recent months, and by May was occupying towns and villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
 
The military says it has captured hundreds of Boko Haram members since the offensive began, killed dozens more and retaken territories.  
 
But on the first trip by journalists to the front, we were not able to visit hospitals, morgues or detention centers.  And what people are facing in most of Nigeria's vast northeastern countryside largely remains unknown.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs