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Boko Haram Massacres 56 in Nigeria Despite Progress Against Terror Group

Officials trumpeted the arrest of 14 Boko Haram suspects across the country over the last two months, just as the insurgency killed 56 people in a village in Borno State.
August 31, 2015, 4:21pm
Photo by Jossy Ola/AP

Nigerian authorities touted gains made in the war against Boko Haram on Sunday, as the governor of Borno State in the northeast confirmed to reporters that the radical Islamist group had slaughtered 56 people in a secluded village.

Tony Opuiyo, spokesperson of the Department of State Services, said in statement that 14 Boko Haram suspects had been arrested across the country over the last two months. Among those arrested was Usman Shuiabu, also known as "Money." He was a key leader who coordinated past suicide attacks, according to AFP.

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"Of particular note was the arrest on 8th July, 2015 in Gombe State of those responsible for the coordination and execution of the suicide attacks in Potiskum, Kano, Zaria and Jos," Opuiyo said. "Shuaibu admitted being the leader of the team of nine sect members that was dispatched from Sambisa Forest to carry out the attacks. He disclosed that four out of the nine of them were used as suicide bombers in executing all the suicide attacks."

Related: Teen Suicide Bomber in Northern Nigeria Kills at Least Six

Opuiyo affirmed that his arrest along with those of other frontline fighters had foiled future bombing plots, particularly planned for Lagos.

"The sudden influx of Boko Haram members into Lagos state points to the determination of the sect to extend its nefarious terrorist activities to the state and in fact, other parts of the country," he said.

Meanwhile, in Borno, where the relatives of more than 200 girls whom Boko Haram abducted from the area of Chibok had recently commemorated 500 of their captivity, Gov. Kashim Shettima said that the insurgency killed 56 people in the village of Baanu on Saturday.

"I want us all to understand that the Boko Haram crisis is a calamity that has befallen us, as the insurgents do not discriminate whether somebody is Christian or Muslim, neither do they have any tribal sympathy or affiliations," Shettima said in remarks quoted by the Associated Press. "Just yesterday they killed 56 people in Baanu village of Nganzai local government, as I am speaking to you their corpses are still littered on the street of the village because virtually everyone in the village had to run for their lives".

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While the governments of Nigeria and Chad have retaken much of the territory that Boko Haram had claimed, the group has continued to pull off devastating attacks, including recent suicide bombings where children or teens have been used as the bomber.

Related: Boko Haram's Leader Reportedly Comes Back From the Dead Again

Earlier this week a suicide attack was reportedly carried out by a 14-year-old girl. She and at least five other people were killed when the bomb went off at the entrance to a bus station in the city of Damaturu. While no one claimed immediate responsibility, Boko Haram was the immediate suspect. In July a 10-year-old girl was used by the group in a suicide bombing that led to the deaths of 16 people.

Security forces have been trying to stay ahead of the attacks. Earlier this week Nigerian government officials said they uncovered a terror cell operating in the international airport in the nation's capital of Abuja aimed at finding new targets to attack, according to Reuters. Among those arrested was 14-year-old boy who had been instructed to spy on the airport's safety procedures.

In Chad, the government executed 10 convicted members of Boko Haram by firing squad on Saturday. It was the first application of capital punishment since the country passed a law last month strengthening its anti-terrorism statutes earlier this year, which included reinstating the death penalty. These were the first state executions since 2003.

Boko Haram started its attack on Nigeria in 2009. Its violent insurgency has left upwards of 20,000 people dead and forced millions to flee. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in May after pledging to fight the terror attacks from the Islamic group.