Boko Haram school kid­nap­ping: An at­tack well-planned

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

KANO: Boko Haram’s ab­duc­tion of more than 100 school­girls in Dapchi, north­east­ern Nige­ria, shows the mil­i­tant group still has the abil­ity and means to stage ma­jor at­tacks.

Since the raid last Mon­day, ques­tions have been asked about how heav­ily armed fight­ers were able to storm the town in Yobe state with­out en­coun­ter­ing any re­sis­tance, then dis­ap­pear.

Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary claims to have the re­gion locked down, as part of a counter-in­sur­gency ef­fort against the group whose nearly nine-year cam­paign of ter­ror has killed at least 20,000 peo­ple.

But wit­nesses in Dapchi and an­a­lysts told AFP that it was a “well-planned at­tack” that specif­i­cally tar­geted the state-run board­ing school.

Res­i­dents in the dusty town near the bor­der with Niger de­scribed see­ing a con­voy of at least 10 to 15 ve­hi­cles just as most peo­ple were at the mosque for evening prayers.

Civil­ians were not harmed and the armed men in­stead asked for direc­tions to the girls school.

Hun­dreds of stu­dents at the Gov­ern­ment Girls Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Col­lege fled in the dark into the sur­round­ing bush; 110 have yet to re­turn.

The at­tack and the con­fu­sion that fol­lowed re­called the ab­duc­tion of 276 girls from Chi­bok, in neigh­bor­ing Borno state, in April 2014.

That brought Boko Haram world­wide no­to­ri­ety at a time when it con­trolled swathes of ter­ri­tory. Since early 2015, that strength has dis­ap­peared.

But Yan St-Pierre, a counter-ter­ror­ism spe­cial­ist with the Modern Se­cu­rity Con­sult­ing group, said: “If they kid­napped more than 100 girls, that shows they have size­able means at their dis­posal and a se­cure place to take them.”

An­other wor­ry­ing in­di­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Yobe Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam is that sol­diers sta­tioned at strate­gic check­points in Dapchi, were re­de­ployed last month.

That left or­di­nary uni­formed po­lice as the town’s only de­fense. One res­i­dent, Mo­hammed Adam, 27, said they were not ef­fec­tive: “They ran into the bush.”

An­other Dapchi res­i­dent, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said he was con­cerned that Boko Haram sym­pa­thiz­ers had se­cretly in­fil­trated the town.

“I be­lieve in­for­mants tipped them off that the troops had with­drawn that al­lowed them to come in be­cause this is the first time that we have come un­der at­tack from Boko Haram.”

Un­til last week, Dapchi had been spared from Boko Haram, even though the group re­peat­edly at­tacked Yobe. On Jan. 5, at least nine sol­diers were killed in an at­tack on a mil­i­tary post.

That at­tack was claimed by the Boko Haram fac­tion headed by Abu Mus’ab Al-Bar­nawi, whose lead­er­ship is rec­og­nized by Daesh.

Bar­nawi’s break­away fac­tion op­er­ates over a vast ter­ri­tory in and around Lake Chad and Niger, in­clud­ing Yobe state.

Fight­ers loyal to Boko Haram’s long-time leader, Abubakar Shekau, are more ac­tive in Borno state and along the Cameroon bor­der.

Some an­a­lysts said Bar­nawi, rather than Shekau, was be­hind the Dapchi at­tack and may have taken hostages as hu­man shields to mit­i­gate mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against them.

Nige­ri­ans are de­mand­ing an­swers from their gov­ern­ment af­ter the re­cent Boko Haram kid­nap­pings. (Reuters)

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