Boko Haram’s unofficial headquarters, situated in the north-eastern town of Gwoza, appears to have been decimated by the Nigerian army.
Nigeria’s armed forces have confirmed the recapture of Gwoza, where the terrorist faction Boko Haram had set up its headquarters. An army spokesperson has proudly proclaimed that the insurgents have now been driven from virtually all the territory they had held.
Even as the successful operation is being celebrated, some militants were seen fleeing towards border areas, the military said. The news about the successful reoccupation of Gwoza has come at a very critical juncture for Nigeria. Within less than 24 hours, the country will elect its next president. The presidential elections were being continually postponed because of Boko Haram’s ever-present threat.
Gwoza has always been a jewel for Boko Haram, and snatching it away from its clutches was quite critical to reaffirming the victory over the terrorist group that operates very similarly to the Islamic State Caliphate.
Boko Haram was greatly protected by the nearby Mandara Mountains. The merciless jihadists could quickly and quietly disappear every time Nigeria’s army stepped up the offensive, making the retaliation futile. The complex system of caves and tunnels offered the perfect cover. These tunnels, which are said to run for hundreds of meters into the mountainside, always allowed Boko Haram to be a step ahead as well as stay hidden from Nigeria’s troops.
The town of Gwoza isn’t far from Chibok, where Boko Haram had kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from a boarding school last April. Though ruthless, the attack earned them international fame and the notoriety they craved. While many are confident the girls were treated as sex slaves, others were sure the Boko Haram was using the girls as bomb mules. These girls were said to be forcibly sent into towns and detonated remotely.
While many still suggest the kidnapped girls were held in Gwoza, they have yet to be found.
Though Boko Haram has lost its headquarters per say, the group hasn’t been completely disbanded, caution regional experts. Many fear the terrorists have merely fled the region, realizing their might was insufficient to launch a counter-offensive against the advancing and determined Nigerian army.
Interestingly, it is the Nigerian army that was earlier blamed for the pace with which Boko Haram had initially established its control over vast swathes of land.
[Image Credit | Nigeria Defense Forces, The Independent]