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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Nigerian president claims Boko Haram militants on the verge of defeat

Nigerien soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria
Nigerien soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria

Heather Saul

The Nigerian President expressed hope all territories held by Boko Haram could be reclaimed within just a month, claiming the militant group is “getting weaker and weaker by the day”.

President Goodluck Jonathan told the BBC, "I'm very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in their [Boko Haram's] hands,” a week before Nigeria’s general election.

His optimistic comments came as the military reclaimed the northern Nigerian town of Damasak from Boko Haram, who captured the town four months ago. 

This recent victory follows a number of successes for the army, boosting its morale and spurring its offensive against the group.

Boko Haram controlled around 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium at the start of 2015, according to Reuters.

In a dramatic reversal, Nigeria's army said on Tuesday it has pushed the Islamist group out of all but three districts.

The army, which has been backed by neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, also claims to have recaptured Baga, the site of a massacre earlier this year where up to 2,000 people were killed.

However, President Jonathan has been criticised for not doing enough to tackle Boko Haram’s swift and bloody insurgency, while 219 girls kidnapped by the group from a school in Borno remain missing.

His challenger Muhammadu Buhari has used his tough reputation as his major selling point in his election campaigns.

Despite this, Mr Jonathan remained confident about his chances in the election, saying: "I'll surely win."

In the recaptured village of Shagui, taken by Boko Haram in early November, students have returned to school but remain wary of the group.

"We are not afraid of being in school because we have soldiers here," Asmoah Yusuf (17), who fled into the bush during the initial attack, told Reuters. "But we still feel a bit afraid because when the town was attacked, the soldiers ran."

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