Since the New Year began, Boko Haram has continued its offensive against Nigerians and its perceived enemies. Setting off what turned into a horrendous chain of events, the jihadist group assaulted and overran a military base that hosted the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) on Jan. 3. The initial attack sent nearby villagers fleeing into neighboring Chad.
In the days that followed, members of Boko Haram attacked the nearby village of Baga and others, killing civilians and burning as they went. Jihadists reportedly unleashed assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades on townspeople.
By Jan. 8, Nigerian officials commented that Boko Haram had razed at least 16 villages in the surrounding area and some 2,000 people were unaccounted for and feared dead.
In a statement to the press on Jan. 13, Nigeria’s Director of Defense Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said that only 150 people, including a large number of Boko Haram members, were killed in the confrontation, faulting the claim that 2,000 people were slaughtered. He further stated that many community members were missing because they had fled the area as a result of incessant attacks on their towns. However, what he did not note was that Boko Haram still controls the area. The Nigerian military reportedly began an offensive on Jan. 9 to reclaim Baga. The assaults by both air and ground forces have yet to unseat the terrorist group.
Outside of Baga, Boko Haram has been active on other fronts. On Saturday, Jan. 10, a girl estimated to be around 10 years-old was strapped with an explosive device which detonated at a busy market in Maiduguri in Borno State. The market had been previously hit by suicide bombers in 2014. At least 20 people were killed and many others were injured in the bombing. A metal detector at the scene indicated that the young girl was carrying something suspicious, however the bomb was set off before she could be isolated.
The same day, a car bomb went off at a police station outside of Potiskum in Yobe State. The detonation occurred as the driver of the vehicle was being taken in for questioning. He was killed, along with a police officer.
The following day, two female suicide bombers hit a busy Sunday market in Potiskum. According to a local security source, “One of the bombers looked 23 and the other 15. The first bomber — the 23 year-old — detonated her explosives just outside the entrance of the market, where volunteers were screening people going inside the market with metal detectors. The second bomber was terrified by the explosion and she tried to dash across the road but she also exploded.”
Boko Haram has also continued its offensive beyond Nigeria’s borders. On Jan. 12, several hundred members of the group attacked a Cameroonian military base in Kolofata, about 10 km east of the border with Nigeria. The Cameroonian Army reported that it killed 143 members of Boko Haram in the battle and lost one soldier on their side. Responding to the attack, Cameroon’s Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said, “It is by far the heaviest toll sustained by the criminal sect Boko Haram since it began launching its barbaric attacks against our land, people and goods.” The attack on Cameroon’s forces came just days after Boko Haram released a video of a man claiming to be group leader Abubakar Shekau, in which he threatened Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. The supposed Shekau directed statements at Biya, saying “If you do not repent then you will see the dire consequences.”