Nearly three dozen young people affiliated with the Nigeria-based Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch Boko Haram have reportedly surrendered to authorities in neighboring Niger, according to Niger’s interior minister.
“Thirty-one young people from Diffa, who were enrolled a few years ago in Boko Haram, decided to surrender,” Niger’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum revealed on Twitter earlier this week, reports Reuters.
The jihadists have not been detained after giving themselves up and are actually expecting a pardon from Niger’s government.
“I learned that the first who surrendered were not arrested, and I surrendered,” a former Boko Haram terrorist reportedly told national television in Niger.
“We expect a pardon from the government so that we can participate in the development of the country and help us get rid of the trauma,” added the jihadist.
Bazoum indicated that Niger’s government would welcome the terrorists “with open arms,” adding, “All those who have parents who are with Boko Haram can tell them to return. Boko Haram is now weak.”
Although the Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed that Boko Haram has been vanquished, the terrorist group continued to carry out attacks in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad as of September.
Last Saturday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari claimed his country’s army captured its last enclave in the vast Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s primary stronghold in northeastern Nigeria that covers the states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, and Kano.
A campaign lasting for months in the 500 square-mile forest led to the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest” on Thursday, Buhari said in a statement, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“The terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice,” added the Nigerian president.
However, the Associated Press (AP) notes that “despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s victorious announcement Saturday, Nigeria is unlikely to see an end soon to the deadly suicide bombings, village attacks and assaults on remote military outposts carried out by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist group.”
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee Diffa when Boko Haram stormed the region in June, notes Reuters.
“Five Niger soldiers were killed by the militants near Diffa in September,” it adds.