World

Nigerian Military Claims Progress Against Boko Haram

Nigeria's military is bragging about its recent progress, saying more than 200 Boko Haram members have surrendered and its latest leader is dead.

Nigerian Military Claims Progress Against Boko Haram
BBC
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Has the Nigerian military reached a turning point in its fight against Boko Haram?

One month after the group's leader appeared in a video declaring an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, the country's military says the man in that video is dead and dozens of rebel fighters have surrendered. 

The news comes as the country's military is bragging about its recent successes in combating the group. It says around 260 militants have laid down their arms after being defeated in combat.

That's not many, considering Boko Haram is thought to have several thousand members. But it's certainly a victory, given that up until now the group has seemed more or less impervious to the military's attacks.

The group controls a large section of the country's northeast, and routinely carries out bombing attacks and other acts of terrorism. It's believed to be responsible for more than 5,000 civilian deaths.

It's also carried out mass kidnappings, most famously when it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls back in April. More than five months later, efforts to secure their release have failed.

And then there's the group's enigmatic leader, Abubakar Shekau. The military has repeatedly claimed that he's dead, but provided no evidence. And new propaganda episodes keep on appearing. (Video via YouTube / Naija Palava)

This week, the military put out photos of a dead man they say was the one appearing in those videos. We'll spare you the image, but the resemblance is pretty convincing. But the military says the man was an impostor named Mohammad Bashir, not Shekau.

In a weird coincidence, both The Washington Post and New York Magazine put out larger-than-life profiles on the militant leader, calling him "immortal" and talking about his "mystique," which may be just a smoke-and-mirrors game of body doubles and assumed names. 

There may not even be a real Shekau, or, if there is, he may never have appeared on camera. Basically, Shekau may be more of an idea than an individual man. But the country's military is now taking steps to attack that idea directly. (Video via TVC News)

A spokesperson said"Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists' leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title." Basically, assume the name at your own risk.

Of course, none of this means the fight is over. Even if the military's gains are as dramatic as they say, Boko Haram remains a major threat.

Still, as the BBC's corespondent in Nigeria puts it, "Boko Haram has been on the end of a clobbering this month."