Vanguard (Lagos)

25 August 2014

Nigeria: FG, Boko Haram Battle for Control of Gwoza

Photo: Indepth Nigeria
Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has issued a new video.

ABUJA--The Defence Headquarters, yesterday, declared that military operations to secure Gwoza town seized by the insurgents earlier this month was ongoing even as Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau was defiant, proclaiming Islamic caliphate in the town which he said was now firmly in the grip of the sect.

Responding to the claim by the sect leader that Gwoza town seized by the insurgents earlier this month has been placed under an Islamic caliphate, the military authorities said "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact".

The Boko Haram leader had in a new video, yesterday, claimed that he has created an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza. In the 52-minutes video obtained by AFP, Shekau said: "Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate. Gwoza, has nothing to do with Nigeria. By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay".

Boko Haram claim empty -- Military

The Defence Headquarters, however, in a tweet on its twitter handle stated that "the claim is empty. Any group of terrorists laying claim to any portion of the country will not be allowed to get away with the expression of delusion and crime. Appropriate military operations to secure that area from the activities of the bandits are still ongoing".

The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) earlier this month confirmed reports that Gwoza was under rebel control.

Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas near Gwoza in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in northern Borno and at least one town in neighbouring Yobe State.

Troops recently stormed communities close to Balmo forest in a military operation that lasted two days. Prior to the operation, Balmo forest stretching from Bauchi through Jigawa State with links to the fringes of Sambisa forest was used by terrorists as bases and hideouts for launching attacks.

During the operation, terrorists and armed gangs operating in the forests were completely dislodged while some were captured. Among those captured were two foreigners who were suspected to be mercenaries.

Also captured were several weapons and equipment including power generating sets, communication equipment, vehicles, motorcycles, foodstuff and kitchen utensils.

Governor Shettima reacts

In his reaction to the reported declaration of Gwoza as a territory of the Islamic sect, Governor Kashim Shettima said: 'I cannot comment on the authenticity or otherwise of that video in question, I will leave that to security experts. I also cannot disclose measures being adopted by security agencies on whatever development in Gwoza or any part of Borno State but I can assure the good people of Borno State and other members of the public that the State Government is actively in touch and supporting security agencies deployed to Borno State in the counter insurgency efforts and insha Allah, the combined efforts will not be in vain.

"We are not just studying the situation with collaborative tact and urgency but indeed, appropriate measures are being taken by the right authorities. For now, I urge the good people of Borno State to remain calm and resolute in their support for security agencies, abiding faith and prayers. The security agencies, I am sure, are in the position to analyse the content of the said new video, compare with the facts on ground in Gwoza and brief the Nigerian public as they deem professionally appropriate, bearing in mind the National interest and patriotism as well as the overall safety of citizens.

"Let me use this opportunity to, while thanking members of the Nigerian and International media for their firm support for Borno people and its government since this insurgency crisis in 2009, make a strong appeal that we do not dramatise and sensationalise issues such as the one connected with Gwoza, so that we all do not fall for the objective of insurgents, which is to at all times, claim victory over our sovereign State, our rights to existence, our freedom and our liberty, as it is always their goal to create so much panic that would make anyone who doesn't share their ideology feel unsafe and defeated.

"Even as those of us in the media work tirelessly to disseminate information in the discharge of important duties that aim to protect the fundamental rights of the public to know happenings within and around them, we must at this moment, more than ever before, do our jobs with patriotic support for our country and its security forces as well as our passion for humanity as against those that seek to send humanity into extinction. As disturbing as what is said to be the development is, I remain very optimistic that victory will never go the way of those that violently stand between fellow human beings and their divine rights to exist as God's creatures on earth"

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