Is the End of Boko Haram in Sight?

Nigeria (GPA) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced Saturday that the last refuge of the African terrorist organization and Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram has fallen to Nigerian troops.

The remnants of the terrorist organization were surrounded over the weekend in their final refuge, “camp zero” in the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria. President Buhari congratulated the troops on a “long awaited” victory and the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave.”

Although this news means that Boko Haram has lost out on the area of land they held, it is probably not necessarily the end of their dangerous ideology. Much like the Islamic State organization that Boko Haram leaders pledged allegiance to in 2015; taking their physical territory may just prove to make the group turn to more violent tactics of insurgency.

Boko Haram is of course the organization that kidnapped around 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, spurring the social media outcry with the #bringbackourgirls campaign. Most recently,21 of the girls have home after negotiations with the government but it was believed at least some of the remaining 197 missing would be hidden in the Sambisa forest.

The hope for this outcome shrank in correlation with the loss of territory held by Boko Haram and seems to have proven to been unrealistic. The girls are still missing, which shows Boko Haram’s network most likely goes well beyond their physical borders. This is a similar problem to what western leaders may soon be facing with the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria by IS. Similar to IS some of the Nigerian schoolgirls have also been indoctrinated by their captors and say they don’t want to return home.

Women and children held hostage by Boko Haram after being issued by the Nigerian army in 2015 – Wikimedia Commons

Buhari’s comments did seem to signal that he knows the war isn’t over, as he told his troops to make sure to “maintain the tempo by pursuing [remaining members of Boko Haram] and bringing them to justice.”

The worries expressed whenever any terror organization loses ground already seem to be materializing as reports come in that the terrorists are regrouping in the Taraba and Bauchi states south of where they were in the Borno state. The government has warned civilians in these areas that militants will likely pass through, and to be vigilant and cooperativeto help the government in mopping up.

Multiple agencies reporting on the success of this operation are still wary, warning that Boko Haram is now more likely to revert to their previous tactics of surprise attacks on weak military targets and suicide bombings. The fight against Boko Haram may not be the interesting ‘war on terror’ to those in the west but it should be watched closely and possibly viewed as a case study as more jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria flee their territorial holdings and mix back into the civilian populations.

 

This report prepared by Jim Carey for Geopolitics Alert.