The government of Cameroon announced this weekend that it had waged a siege on the town of Kumshe alongside Nigerian forces, killing dozens of Boko Haram terrorists and liberating up to 850 hostages.
Kumshe, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, had become a Boko Haram stronghold after the Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group raided the town, taking its villagers hostage and using it as a de facto hub out of which to stage attacks. Cameroonian and Nigerian forces entered the town together, attempting to capture or kill as many Boko Haram terrorists as possible. “Our boys are still on the field with Nigerian soldiers and have received instructions to continue raids on all Boko Haram border villages until we defeat them,” Cameroon’s military spokesman told reporters.
According to domestic reports, soldiers killed 92 Boko Haram terrorists and liberated up to 850 captives, some showing evidence of undergoing suicide bomber training. One report described Kumshe as “one of the main logistics bases and an important center of decision and pulse criminal actions plotted and launched by the Boko Haram terrorists towards the Cameroonian territory.” Soldiers found an extensive weapons arsenal in the town, including terrorist training manuals, explosive belts, land mines, firearms, and other explosives. At least two Cameroonian soldiers died upon encountering a landmine.
None of those captured, despite many identified as girls and young women being trained as suicide bombers, have been identified as potentially belonging to the group of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the village of Chibok, Nigeria, in April 2014. Aside from a small number that managed to escape in the immediate aftermath, Nigerian authorities have found none of the girls abducted that day in the terrorist act that garnered Boko Haram worldwide ignominy.
The victory follows more positive news out of Borno state, Nigeria, considered Boko Haram’s headquarters. Soldiers found and arrested four jihadis identified on the Nigerian military’s top 100 most-wanted list, all attempting to travel out of the contested region to Nigeria’s south. The men were positively identified through their prominent Boko Haram tattoos. A military spokesman described the men as appearing “unkempt with signs of starvation.”
The Nigerian military’s top 100 most-wanted list boasts an extensive array of people perceived to be dangerous, including children known to have been abducted and suspected of undergoing terrorist training. In December, Nigerian authorities arrested an 11-year-old would-be suicide bomber who found his way on the list.
Due to a string of recent successes, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly claimed that Nigeria has “won the war” against Boko Haram. He made this claim first in December, as he had given the Nigerian army a three-month ultimatum to destroy the Sunni jihadist group that ended that month. Most recently, during bilateral talks with the Emir of Qatar, Buhari reportedly claimed that “Boko Haram has been systematically decimated and are in no position to cause serious threat to our development programmes.”
Many doubt these claims, however, as Boko Haram has staged numerous massacres since December. In January, Boko Haram terrorists raided the Nigerian village of Dalori, killing over 100 villagers. Eyewitnesses describe Boko Haram terrorists burning children alive with no soldiers in sight to counter the attack.
Two weeks later, the Nigerian military announced mass arrests of soldiers believed to be selling arms to Boko Haram for personal profit, aiding the continuation of the Boko Haram threat in the region.
“It is highly insensitive for government officials to boast of how Boko Haram has been defeated when lives are still being lost and many displaced persons are still stranded in camps unable to return home,” Jola Sotubo, a columnist for Nigeria’s Pulse publication, wrote this week. “It is even more insensitive to talk about how the sect can no longer hold territories or threaten the government, as if the people who are being killed are of secondary importance.”
In addition to threatening Nigeria, Boko Haram has established a presence in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.