In picture above: Members of the Yansakai vigilante group surrender more than 500 guns to the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, as part of efforts to accept the peace process of the state government in Gusau, on December 3, 2019. At a ceremony before Zamfara Governor Bello Matawale, hundreds of the fighters unloaded sacks full of Kalashnikovs and locally made hunting rifles as part of their promise to disarm. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)
A Reuters report says that the terrorist group, Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, otherwise known as Boko Haram, have taken over multiple communities in Nigeria’s north-central Niger state, offering villagers money and incorporating them in their ranks to fight the government.
This is despite the army report last month that close to 6,000 fighters from Boko Haram had recently surrendered, attributing the development to the military’s counter-insurgency efforts.
On Sunday, the Nigerian Army claimed it had repelled attempts by the Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) the previous day “to embark on a mission to annihilate or capture Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs), who surrendered in Damboa.”
“The gallant troops of 25 Task Force Brigade Operation HADIN KAI whose superior firepower forced the terrorists to withdraw in disarray, ensured Damboa did not fall to their antics. The terrorists made futile attempt to access the facility housing the surrendered BHT members, but retreated when confronted with the superior firepower of own troops,” the Army report said.
But quoting a government official, Suleiman Chukuba, chairman of Shiroro local government area in Niger state, which borders Abuja, the Reuters report said that Boko Haram fighters were now present in at least eight wards out of a total 25.
“Shiroro local government has an uncountable number of Boko Haram fighters,” Chukuba said.
Shiroro has a population of 331,000 people and spans 4,700 square kilometres, according to Niger state’s official website.
Niger state information commissioner Muhammad Sani Idris confirmed that Boko Haram fighters, who were initially thought to be armed bandits, had made inroads in the state. But Idris said that the state government and security agencies have been able to curtail the spread.
“We are doing whatever it takes as a state,” he said. “And we will combine the methods of our security personnel and our local vigilantes.”
Chukuba called on the federal government more troops to the area to fight the insurgents.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has waged an insurgency since 2009, joined more recently by its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province. The fighting has killed almost 350,000 and displaced millions, according to a United Nations estimate.
The Islamist group is typically concentrated in the northeast of Africa’s most populous nation, and its presence in Niger, a state that borders the federal capital territory, could indicate a concerning spread at a time the military says its counter-insurgency efforts are working.