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Nigerian army mobilises to fight Islamists

MOBILISED: Soldiers from Nigeria battalion 1 (PA)

NIGERIA’S MILITARY are preparing for a lengthy campaign aiming to eliminate the threat of Islamist fighters.

On May 14, the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa after militants managed to pull off several lethal attacks.

In an official statement over the new military operation, the government said the “massive deployment of men and resources” to the afflicted states is aimed at “asserting the nation's territorial integrity” and “enhancing security”.

Authorities have attributed the majority of the blame for the violence on militants from the Boko Haram group.

Based in the northeast, the group has been held responsible for fighting in the region which has claimed the lives of about 2,000 people since 2010.

They have also waged a territorial struggle, claiming control over areas in the northeastern states and border zones.

The three affected states are some of the poorest ones in a country multi-ethnic country of 160 million people.

Presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe told the BBC: “We've had a lot of problems [of] border crime, and criss-crossing of the border by the insurgents, and there's also evidence that some of the insurgents really are non-Nigerians.

“As long as the terrorists can go in and out unchallenged, then we're in big trouble.”

The large-scale military mobilization has intimidated residents of the region.

Hajja Maimuna, a local who lives near Maiduguri's Air Force base, told Nigeria's Daily Trust website: “We are really terrified... Even though the state governor has not been removed, which is good, the truth is that Maiduguri is now a garrison town, full of angry soldiers who are ready to kill at the slightest provocation.”

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the regional language of Hausa, is seeking to overthrow the national government in the northeast and establish an Islamic state.

The group, which is said to have fostered ties with al Qaeda associated fighters in the Sahara, has a history of targeting Christian and government organisations, but have killed numerous Muslim civilians.

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