The town of Chibok, which was recently taken as new territory by the Boko Haram was reclaimed on Saturday by the Nigerian army. The small town that is located in northeastern Nigeria became an internationally recognized battleground between Nigeria and Boko Haram after militants kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls more than six months ago. The kidnappings sparked an outcry across the globe, bringing Chibok to the forefront in the ongoing war.
Boko Haram gained control of the town on Thursday evening after repeatedly targeting the area. Residents fled as rebels came into the town shooting guns from vehicles. According to the Nigerian army, Chibok was retaken late Saturday, roughly 48 hours after militants captured it. Brigadier General Olajide Olaleye said that the town is free and secured in the hands of the army. Chibok is a small town and there are many larger town that have been in the hands of militants for months without the army showing much urgency in reclaiming them. While the town is not particularly important geographically, the kidnapping of the schoolgirls, and their subsequent conversion to Islam and presenting of them to Boko Haram soldiers as wives, made Chibok an internationally recognized symbol of the conflict between militants and the Nigerian army.
The Boko Haram territory was reclaimed in a joint effort between a local force of vigilantes and Nigerian soldiers. According to the BBC the vigilantes might have felt like they had little left to lose since the militants had already over run the town. They worked with the military to secure the town as quickly as possible and their success has offered hope for future victories. According to the Nigerian army, troops are still pursuing those terrorists that fled the area and are arresting the ones who they find that are wounded. Many residents in the area say that the militants still have a strong presence in villages and towns surrounding Chibok and that the area is still no to be considered safe.
The name “Boko Haram” when translated loosely means that “Western education is forbidden.” The group was formed in 2002 but did not really expand until 2011. Their attacks have increased over the years in both brutality and frequency. They use similar methods to those of other terrorist organizations such as suicide and car bombs and they have killed thousands of people, many of which were children, in an attempt to dislodge any Western influence in the nation. This includes all manner of activities ranging from voting in elections to smoking cigarettes. The main goal of Boko Haram is to oust the Nigerian government and put an Islamic caliphate in its stead.
This latest reclamation of territory previously taken by the Boko Haram is being taken as a positive sign. Many of the villages and towns that the militants have attacked have fallen into their hands with very little resistance taking place. This victory by the Nigerian army shows that there is a chance that all the territory that has been taken by the group in the last years can be retaken.
By Clara Goode
Photo Source: Diariocritico de Venezuela – Flickr License