The extremist group that has terrorized Nigeria for years was pushed out of its last stronghold, the country’s president said on Saturday, celebrating that soldiers had managed to oust the militants from their forest camp in the northern end of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated Nigerian troops for “finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at Camp Zero,” located within the Sambisa Forest. Although the insurgent group once controlled an area the size of Belgium it had lately been driven into that camp as the government’s offensive against militants intensified.
It is in the Sambisa Forest that many believe Boko Haram is holding at least some of the schoolgirls it kidnapped in 2014 from Chibok, which sparked the international #BringBackOurGirls movement. So far, the girls have not been located. “Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity. May God be with them,” Buhari said. Although many of the girls have escaped and others were freed through international negotiations, there are some 197 who remain missing.
Boko Haram has killed some 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during its seven-year insurgency that seeks to implement a strict Islamic state in a portion of Nigeria.
Despite the celebration from the government and military, there was immediate skepticism that this could translate into an end to terrorism in Nigeria. Ryan Cummings, director of Africa-focused risk management company Signal Risk, tells Reuters it isn’t likely that all of Boko Haram’s insurgents were run out of Sambisa. “Boko Haram may have both logistical and operational bases both within and outside of Nigeria’s borders,” he said.
Plus, Boko Haram isn’t the only militant group that Nigeria has to worry about. On the same day as the president’s celebratory statement, the Islamic State, which is allied to Boko Haram, claimed it had carried out an attack on army barracks in northern Nigeria. It was a clear indication that “despite Buhari’s announcement, Nigeria is unlikely to see an end soon to the deadly suicide bombings, village attacks and assaults on remote military outposts in northeastern Nigeria carried out by the country’s homegrown Islamic extremist group,” notes the Associated Press.