Monday, November 17, 2014

Nigerian military take back Chibok from Boko Haram

The Nigerian army says it has recaptured the north-eastern town of Chibok, which was seized by Boko Haram militants on Thursday.

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village in April, sparking global outrage.

The group, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has repeatedly targeted villages in Borno state in recent months.

There are reports of many Boko Haram members being killed in Sunday's raid.

Correspondents say Chibok was retaken late on Saturday, after dozens of military vehicles were seen heading to the village.

A local vigilante force was part of the operation.

This was a joint operation by Nigerian soldiers with a large number of members of a local vigilante force. The success of the mission offers some hope of further success against the insurgents who have been seizing towns and villages in north-east Nigeria, often with little resistance.

The vigilantes would have been desperate to flush the jihadists out of the town and may have felt they had very little to lose by taking them on. A decision was clearly taken to retake Chibok as fast as possible. It is geographically no more significant than other towns and villages still in the hands of the jihadists but its name resonates around the world due to the tragedy of the 219 abducted school girls and so it was important for the government and military to win this battle.

Larger towns like Gwoza have been held by Boko Haram since August and it is surprising that there has not been more urgency to dislodge them from there. There has been a depressing diet of news from the north-east but the recapture of Chibok is a rare piece of good news from an area in crisis.

'Still dangerous'
"Troops continue pursuit of fleeing terrorists and arrest of the wounded. Normalcy is restored," Nigeria's army said on its official Twitter feed.

The military has clearly made it a priority to recapture Chibok, which was held by the insurgents for 48 hours, the BBC's Will Ross reports from Lagos.

However, many residents say the jihadists still have a presence in the surrounding villages and so the area is not safe, our correspondent adds.

Many Chibok residents have moved to other parts of the country, fearing more attacks.

Last month, the group dismissed the government's claims to have agreed a ceasefire. The government had said the ceasefire would set the stage for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.


Related story: Boko Haram seize Chibok - home of kidnapped schoolgirls

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