Anonymous Nigerian soldiers have told media outlets that a group of Boko Haram terrorists and their hostages, numbering 76 people, have surrendered to the military in northeast Borno state. The terrorists surfaced from the forests in which they were hiding “begging for food,” one witness stated, having chosen surrender over starvation.
The surrender occurred in the town of Gwoza, previously the scene of a Boko Haram massacre, the Associated Press reports. The men leading the group, which included women and child hostages, demanded to be fed in exchange for surrender, according to both a Nigerian soldier who could not be named and a civilian self-defense group representative. The Boko Haram terrorists allegedly told soldiers that there were many like themselves hiding in Borno state’s Sambisa forest, home base for the Islamic State-affiliated terror organization, hoping to surrender in exchange for being fed.
Nigerian news outlet Naij published a photo they claim is of the surrendering group.
The mass surrender follows a similar incident in which Nigerian soldiers arrested a number of high-ranking Boko Haram members who appeared to be attempting to travel south, out of the typical range of action for the terrorist group. On Monday, the Civilian Joint Task Force assigned to assist the military in attacking Boko Haram in areas that are less accessible to the federal government announced that they had arrested four suspected Boko Haram members in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno. “The suspects looked unkempt with signs of starvation and have been handed over to the military for further interrogation,” according to Nigeria’s Daily Post.
All four were members of Nigeria’s top 100 most wanted terrorist list, and were identified through tattoos they bore of Boko Haram symbols.
The next day, Nigerian military spokesmen announced that four men had been arrested in relation to a church bombing near the capital, Abuja, conducted five years ago. The bombing has been attributed to the Boko Haram group and the men are believed to be members. One man, identified as Victor Moses, was arrested after lurking around a local mosque, claiming he was a Christian looking to convert. Authorities believe Moses was conducting surveillance to give Boko Haram jihadists the information necessary to bomb the mosque. Moses has confessed to this crime.
The Associated Press notes that the Nigerian military is taking these arrests as evidence that their tactics against Boko Haram are working, particularly their attempts to cordon off the Sambisa forest and prevent those hiding within from acquiring food, fuel, or weapons. “In essence, the insurgents have been effectively denied territory or sanctuary and are now in disarray… Scattered, demoralized and hungry, they have resorted to terror tactics available to a degraded and defeated insurgent group,” Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Information Minister, said in February.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has already declared victory against Boko Haram, despite their continued ability to stage suicide bombings and village raids. “Technically, we have won the war,” Buhari said in December in a BBC Hausa interview. “Boko Haram has been systematically decimated and are in no position to cause serious threat to our development programmes,” he reiterated last month at a meeting with the Emir of Qatar. Many doubt Buhari’s confidence, however, as Boko Haram has staged numerous attacks between December and March, including the massacre of dozens in the village of Dalori, Borno.
Nigeria has become an increasingly inhospitable country for its Christians, according to a report released in February. Up to 11,500 Christians have been killed and more than one million displaced in the past 16 years, and 13,000 churches have been destroyed.