Boko Haram killed over 700 in 45 attacks in July

Nairobi, (IANS/EFE) Nigerian militant group Boko Haram was more active than ever in July, as at least 45 attacks claimed the lives of 714 people — one-third of all deaths in the first half of 2015, according to data released by security forces and emergency services.

In recent weeks, Boko Haram has continued its strategy of combining sudden attacks and looting on one hand, and suicide bombings on the other.

In fact, one of the most striking points of the escalation was that one-third of the attacks occurred outside Nigeria (6 in Chad, 5 in Cameroon and 4 in Niger) which indicates more operations in the region.

Analysts link the surge in attacks in neighbouring countries to a deliberate strategy by the group, which wants to extend the conflict zone to force regional military forces, which are about to become operational, to fight several fronts simultaneously.

Boko Haram used to escalate its activity after periods of calm that came with successful large-scale operations carried out by the Nigerian army, so the change had demonstrated the group’s flexibility and adaptability.

In February, a joint force led by Nigeria and Chad managed to expel Boko Haram from its urban strongholds, which reduced the attacks in the following three months due to losses sustained by the terrorist group, but also forced it to downplay its operational activity and recognise the need to reorganize its supply lines, which were interrupted by the trade blockade on Lake Chad.

However, since Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in on May 29, the Islamist group has perpetrated 65 attacks and killed 1,123 people.

Since the beginning of 2015, at least 131 attacks were carried out, causing 2,169 deaths.

Moreover, the use of suicide bombings has increased exponentially and, although some experts link this surge to the fact that the group is weakening, some argue that this strategy is the most devastating, as it requires few resources and preparation.

So far this year, the extremist group has carried out at least 52 suicide attacks, mostly carried out by women and girls, killing 667 people, while July was the deadliest month in that regard, with 20 attacks and 261 deaths.

Despite the efforts of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon to coordinate a joint response to Boko Haram, the quarrels between the armies of those countries and the historical mistrust between their leaders have undermined their ability to respond effectively to the Boko Haram challenge.

After months of negotiations, the four countries – plus Benin – agreed in June to the terms of forming a multinational joint force starting July 30 with its main headquarters in Chad, while Nigeria will assume permanent leadership, and the rest of the countries will rotate command assistance.

However, delays in the appointment of the military command that will lead a contingent of 8,700 soldiers has led to the postponement of launching any operations, of which Boko Haram has taken advantage without facing the slightest response.

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