ABUJA, Nigeria (BP) — A new multination military offensive is causing Boko Haram to surrender “en masse,” a Nigerian military official claimed Sept. 13, just as humanitarian aid groups said Boko Haram attacks were creating a major hunger crisis in the region.
“The Nigerian Army in conjunction with the Nigerian Airforce and other security agencies will continue to devise and implement effective strategies to bring Boko Haram terrorism to a speedy end,” the International Business Times quoted Colonel Sani Usman, Nigeria’s acting director of Army Public Relations. “It will also continue to receive surrendering suspects and assures innocent ones among them that surrender is the only option open to them.”
A special military force of 8,700 soldiers from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin mobilized against Boko Haram in February, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has given newly appointed military leaders just months to stop the terrorists.
Despite Usman’s claims, Boko Haram has forced nearly 800,000 people to flee their homes since June, causing mass malnutrition in some areas of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the humanitarian Thomson Reuters Foundation reported Sept. 11. The World Food Program (WFP) and the American Red Cross have also reported a growing hunger crisis in the region, fueled by Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria and in the neighboring countries where Nigerians have fled.
Both sides of the conflict have reported successes since the 8,700 soldiers were deployed, according to news reports.
Boko Haram is blamed for many hit-and-run style attacks including suicide bombings. On Sept. 13, suicide bombers believed to be Boko Haram members killed at least seven people and injured 18 others in an attack in Cameroon, the Associated Press reported.
On Sept. 2, suspected Boko Haram gunmen killed at least five villagers and injured six others in a raid in Borno state, after having killed at least 24 others in two separate village attacks in other northeast Nigerian communities days earlier, Reuters reported.
Boko Haram is blamed for killing 600 to 900 people in the region during Buhari’s presidency, adding to an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Boko Haram has killed since 2009. The terrorists have targeted Christians but have also killed moderate Muslims and others.
The international community focused on Boko Haram in April, 2014, when the terrorists kidnapped more than 300 teenage schoolgirls in Chibok. As many as 75 of the girls escaped, but about 220 remain missing and are feared sold as Muslim sex slaves or used as suicide bombers.
Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the ISIS terrorist group, and is committed to establishing strict sharia law across Nigeria. In 2014 alone, 42 percent of all attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria were on Christian communities, while 35.4 percent targeted random civilians, according to the Jubilee Campaign for global religious freedom. Other attacks in 2014 targeted Muslim communities (6.8 percent), the government (10.9 percent), schools (4.1 percent), and media and medical personnel (0.5 percent), according to the Jubilee Campaign 2015 Report on Nigeria.