After declaring a state of emergency in three northern states, Nigeria’s federal government has begun a new offensive against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Nigerian troops have reportedly engages several Boko Haram bases in northern Nigeria and some sources are reporting that the government has conducted air strikes against other Boko Haram targets. Boko Haram is responsible for killing over 4,000 people in its 4-year long insurgency. Many of the group’s victims were selected because they were Christians. Will this new offensive bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency?
5/18/2013 Nigeria (IOL News) – Nigerian forces attacked Islamist strongholds in the north-east on Thursday, security sources said as an offensive got under way to wrest back territory from increasingly well-armed Boko Haram insurgents.
Soldiers raided areas in the Sambisa Game Reserve, a remote savannah of about 500 square kilometres in Borno state where Islamists have established bases, said two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. They gave no further details.
Preparing for possible further action across three frontier states where President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, the armed forces also deployed jet fighters and helicopter gunships to the region.
Rights groups said they feared for the safety of civilians from combatants on both sides, but Jonathan’s move enjoys widespread public support after more than three years of trying to contain the insurgency without notable success.
It follows an upsurge in violence against government and Christian targets in the north-east by Islamists who want an Islamic state in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation’s 170 million people are split evenly between Christians, who dominate in the south, and Muslims, who are the majority in the north.
Little detail was available from Sambisa. Nigerian forces have attacked Islamist bases in the area of the game reserve before, as recently as February, to rout militants seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top energy producer.
The emergency affects the semi-desert states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which variously border Niger, Chad and Cameroon and cover about 150 000 square kilometres – an area similar to England or Illinois, but with a population of only 10 million.
A Reuters reporter saw two Alpha light attack jets land at Yola in Adamawa state. Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Yusuf Anas confirmed that “air assets”, also including helicopter gunships, had been sent to support ground troops. A military source said there could be air strikes on Islamist bases.