Boko Haram Resurfaces In West Africa, With Pledge Of Continued Violence
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We haven't talked much about Boko Haram lately. If you remember, that's the Nigerian extremist group that kidnapped 300 schoolgirls last year. Well, earlier this week, the group released a video. Here's a short clip.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Hausa).
MARTIN: In the video, an unidentified speaker is reading from a paper script. And we believe he's reaffirming Boko Haram's allegiance to the self-described Islamic State. He's flanked by about two dozen followers, some with their faces covered, all carrying large weapons. Boko Haram is blamed for a continuing campaign of violence, which has killed hundreds more people this year and displaced tens of thousands, including a possible attack this morning. Officials in Chad, a near neighbor of Nigeria, suspect Boko Haram is behind the bombings of a market and refugee camp earlier today. We wanted to hear more so we've called NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, and she joins us from her base in Dakar, Senegal. Ofeibea, thanks for joining us.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.
MARTIN: Now, Ofiebea, I thought a regional force made up of troops from Nigeria and its neighbors was supposed to have driven Boko Haram out of strongholds in the northeast. Is that - that's not true? What's happening?
QUIST-ARCTON: It did, indeed, earlier in the year before President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria's new leader. But you're talking about this reported attack across the border in Chad. We're told that many people have been wounded, and it was a triple bombing targeting, as you said, a market and refugee camp. And this is happening increasingly. It's hit and run raids blamed on Boko Haram. And they're attacking in northeastern Nigeria - its former stronghold - and across Nigeria's borders. So many people are asking questions - what has happened to this regional force that pushed Boko Haram out and was meant to keep it out of Nigeria and neighboring countries?
MARTIN: Ofeibea, what have we learned about the group from this new video? We see that they seem to be using a new alias - I mean, Islamic State's West Africa Province. So what have we gleaned from this?
QUIST-ARCTON: They're certainly reaffirming this allegiance to self-proclaimed Islamic State and the original allegiance came a few months ago. And then somebody who we don't recognize, speaking very poor Hausa, the lingua franca in northeastern Nigeria, denies recent claims by the Nigerian military that some members of Boko Haram have surrendered to the army, also denying that the military has rescued a number of women and children abducted Boko Haram and says the military has failed in its battlefront offensive against Boko Haram - it's now resorting to a media campaign - and that their violent campaign will not be derailed in reaffirming, you know, sort of - it seems to be continuing courting between Boko Haram and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
MARTIN: Nigeria has a relatively new president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has continued the - you know, his predecessor said he would defeat the insurgency. He's saying that he will defeat the insurgency. Does there appear to be any sign that this is happening?
QUIST-ARCTON: Well, we've been told that this regional military force made up from troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon is poised to strike. But Nigerians are waiting for this to happen. Meanwhile, Boko Haram has stepped its attacks - its guerilla tactics, where it sends in, especially and increasingly, young girls and some boys as suicide bombers. So they are still a force to be reckoned with despite President Buhari having pledged to root out and destroy Boko Haram by the end of this year.
MARTIN: NPR's Africa correspondent Ofiebea Quist-Arcton joining us from Dakar, Senegal. Ofeibea, thank you.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
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