Hun­dreds of Boko Haram fight­ers sur­ren­der in Chad

Mil­i­tary task force says 240 ex-fight­ers in de­ten­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of Boko Haram fight­ers and their fam­i­lies have sur­ren­dered in Chad in the past month, se­cu­rity and UN sources said, in a sign the mil­i­tary cam­paign against them is mak­ing head­way. Boko Haram, which has killed and kid­napped thou­sands of peo­ple, had seized an area ap­prox­i­mately the size of Bel­gium in north­east­ern Nige­ria by last year but has since lost sig­nif­i­cant ground amid grow­ing re­gional mil­i­tary pres­sure. An­a­lyst and se­cu­rity sources think the fight­ers are prob­a­bly re­cent re­cruits that Boko Haram has strug­gled to re­tain as it has ceded ter­ri­tory. De­fec­tions of Boko Haram fight­ers have been re­ported in Nige­ria but are not known to have pre­vi­ously oc­curred on such a large scale.

“They sur­ren­dered to our troops on the front line in Lake Chad,” said Colonel Mo­ham­mad Dole, Chief Mil­i­tary Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer for the Multi­na­tional Joint Task Force (MNJTF) head­quar­tered in Chad’s cap­i­tal N’Dja­mena. “The sur­ren­ders are tak­ing place be­cause of the fire­power of our op­er­a­tions. The groups, many of them armed, have been ar­riv­ing since Septem­ber and their num­ber keeps in­creas­ing,” he said.

Some 240 fight­ers, most of whom are Cha­dian, are now be­ing held in de­ten­tion along with their fam­i­lies, Dole said. The MNJTF, with troops from Chad, Niger, Nige­ria, Cameroon and Benin and in­tel­li­gence, train­ing and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port from the United States, launched a re­gional op­er­a­tion in July against the group, which has pledged al­le­giance to Is­lamic State.

It has since con­tin­ued pa­trols around the wa­ter­ways of Lake Chad - one of the world’s poor­est re­gions whose vil­lages were last year reg­u­larly struck by fight­ers, some­times aboard ca­noes.

Around 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple have been dis­placed in the Lake Chad Basin where Chad, Niger, Nige­ria and Cameroon meet. Signs that re­gional armies are wrest­ing back con­trol of the Cha­dian part of the lake is sig­nif­i­cant since it had been a re­cruit­ment hub, even if the group never sought to con­quer ter­ri­tory there, said Ryan Cum­mings, di­rec­tor of con­sul­tancy Sig­nal Risk.

“Their pres­ence in Chad was more for re­cruit­ment and for re­sources. Its strikes in the coun­try were puni­tive,” he said, re­fer­ring to re­venge at­tacks on re­gional mil­i­tary heavy­weight Chad, which has sup­plied 3,000 troops for the MNJTF.

Cha­dian mil­i­tary of­fi­cials are cur­rently pro­fil­ing the de­tainees cur­rently housed at two de­ten­tion cen­tres in the re­mote town of Baga Solo, some of whom ar­rived this week. Based on pre­vi­ous pat­terns, it is likely that many were ab­ducted or forcibly re­cruited by Boko Haram whose name means “West­ern ed­u­ca­tion is sin­ful” in the lo­cal Hausa lan­guage. Stephen Tull, UN Res­i­dent Co­or­di­na­tor in Chad, said a to­tal of around 700 peo­ple were be­ing held, in­clud­ing men, women and chil­dren. It was un­clear how many were fight­ers, he said. Boko Haram has in the past de­ployed child soldiers and fe­male sui­cide bombers.

“They are mostly Cha­di­ans and ap­pear to all be more re­cent re­cruits,” he said cit­ing in­for­ma­tion from a UN visit to the cen­tres ear­lier this month. Is­lamic State named Abu Musab al-Bar­nawi as Boko Haram’s leader in Au­gust al­though an­other branch loyal to for­mer head Abubakar Shekau is still op­er­a­tional. It was not clear from which branch the fight­ers sur­ren­dered, nor how se­nior they are.

Philippe Bar­ragne-Bigot, head of the UN chil­dren’s agency in Chad, said that it had set up a cen­tre for the chil­dren, who he said should be treated as for­mer hostages. “We want to pro­file them and make sure they have the right psy­cho­log­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” he told Reuters. — Reuters

SEOUL: This long ex­po­sure pho­to­graph shows pro­test­ers march­ing to­wards the pres­i­den­tial house dur­ing an anti-gov­ern­ment rally in cen­tral Seoul yes­ter­day. Tens of thou­sands of men, women and chil­dren joined one of the largest anti-gov­ern­ment protests seen in Seoul for decades yes­ter­day, de­mand­ing Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye’s res­ig­na­tion over a snow­balling cor­rup­tion scan­dal. — AFP

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