By Leigha Wentz,
International News Assistant Editor
Nigerian military forces claimed to have retaken the town of Bama, located in the north-eastern state of Borno, from Boko Haram on Tuesday, March 17. The military also claimed to have removed the extremist Islamic group from Yobe, a state located to the west of Borno.
In a statement given via Twitter, defense spokesman Chris Olukolade announced the military victory, tweeting: “We announced the reclaiming of (the town of) Goniri today. That was the last stronghold of terrorists in Yobe… #YobeIsFree.”
As reported by the Daily Mail, General Olukolade reported the reclamation of Bama, Borno’s second-largest town located approximately 45 miles from the state capital of Maiduguri, in a later tweet.
“Nigerian troops have this afternoon routed terrorists from in state. Mopping up operation is ongoing,” he said.
Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State, and had taken control of Bama in early September 2014 while capturing several additional towns and villages throughout northeastern Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. According to Yahoo News, the three states became the center of Nigeria’s six-year conflict with the group, which has led to the deaths of over 13,000 and resulted in the displacement of 1.5 million more. Although all three of the states were put under a state of emergency in May 2013, violence continued to erupt within the region as Boko Haram broadened its attacks to include areas in the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
A four-country joint offensive operation was launched in response to the violence, leading to a series of victories against the group in past weeks.
The Daily Mail reports that locals fleeing from Boko Haram reported that the group had set fire to homes in Bama as the Nigerian military forces drew closer. Nigerian soldiers arrived at the town at 4:00 p.m. on Monday March 15, according to a report made by AFP. Several residents used the offensive to escape to safety, while the military reports that some of the surviving jihadists fled to the border with Chad, prompting officials to request that the Chadian army pursue them.
General Olukolade said in an official statement that the fighting in Bama had resulted in massive casualties on Boko Haram militants.
“The Chadian partners in the Multinational Joint Task Force have been mandated to undertake a pursuit of the terrorists who are believed to be heading for the borders after being dislodged from Bama,” he said.
Among the residents who managed to flee Bama, Jummai Mumini, a mother of four, spoke to AFP upon her arrival in Maiduguri.
“When I saw myself in Maiduguri, I thought I am in heaven because Bama was hell… Bama was hell,” she said.
Ms. Mumini added that her life in Bama had felt like a different world.
The liberation of the state of Yobe comes after last week’s apparent victory in the nearby state of Adamawa, leaving a few towns and villages scattered throughout Borno that remain under the group’s control. The BBC reports that General Olukolade has promised that Borno will soon be free as well.
Boko Haram had been founded in 2002 within the state of Borno and was originally aimed at combating Western-style education. It was responsible for the kidnapping of at least 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014, prompting international outrage.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 24th print edition.
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