The purported leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau appears on a video. Picture: REUTERS
The purported leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau appears on a video. Picture: REUTERS

Lagos — Nigeria’s presidency claims that Boko Haram’s 10-year-old insurgency has been “defeated” but admits that international jihadists pose a growing threat.

“The position of the Nigerian government is that the Boko Haram terrorism has been degraded and defeated. The real Boko Haram we know is defeated,” the presidency said in a statement.

The country was now facing “a mixture” of Boko Haram remnants, criminal groups and jihadists from the Maghreb and West Africa fuelled by turmoil in Libya and the collapse of the Islamic State (IS) caliphate in the Middle East, it said.

“As a consequence of these international gangs, we have seen an increase of trans-border crimes and the proliferation of small arms in the Lake Chad Basin area,” it said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general who vowed to crush Boko Haram when he became president in 2015 for his first term in office, has previously said the group were “beaten”.

The uprising began in northeast Nigeria in July 2009 when fighting between the hardline group and government forces left hundreds of jihadists dead, including leader Muhammad Yusuf. Since then, the bloody campaign has killed 27,000 people, displaced more than 2-million and spilled over into neighbouring countries.

In 2015, the Nigerian army forced the jihadists out of major towns but they remain at large in remote strongholds.

Fighters still launch attacks and a breakaway faction loyal to IS, the Islamic State West Africa Province, has ratcheted up assaults against the military since 2018.

Over the weekend an attack by the Boko Haram group headed by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau killed 65 villagers close to the regional capital Maiduguri.

The army has often been criticised for failing to safeguard local communities, with vigilante groups stepping into the void left by the authorities. But the presidency said it was looking to bolster its military capacity and expected the long-awaited delivery of Super Tucano turbo-prop warplanes from the US “beginning next year”.

AFP