By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service, who was born in Nigeria
BORNO STATE, NIGERIA, WEST AFRICA (ANS – November 3, 2015) — The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has released photos apparently showing a rocket-making factory in north-eastern Nigeria.
According to the BBC, the group, which is affiliated with Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has used rocket-propelled grenades in the past and many Nigerians have been asking where the weapons have been coming from.
“The photos seem to indicate that members of the group have the technical know-how to manufacture weapons,” said the BBC story. “The pictures are believed to have been taken in a college in Borno state.”
They were sent as a Whatsapp messages to the BBC Hausa service using a telephone number from Cameroon, and have also been published on sites linked to so-called Islamic State, which Boko Haram has joined.
Analysts say it looks as though the machinery is from Bama, a town in north-eastern Nigeria recently recaptured from Boko Haram.
An inscription on one of the machines shows the abbreviation of Government Technical College Bama (GTCB).
The equipment appears to have been donated to the college by the Educational Trust Fund (ETF) in 2005.
“It is not clear when the pictures were taken, or whether the equipment has been moved from Bama,” stated the BBC.
“The army has recaptured most of the towns previously under Boko Haram control but the group still carries out frequent attacks, especially in Borno State, where Bama is located.”
Is the tide turning against Boko Haram?
The BBC went on to say that if the recent footage released by the military is anything to go by, Nigerians may have reason for optimism about the government’s ongoing battle against the vicious group.
The Nigerian military says the footage shows Boko Haram fighters on trucks and motorcycles fleeing aerial bombardment by the Air Force, in a recent operation in the Sambisa forest – thought to be the militants’ last stronghold in Nigeria.
Recently, the military said that hundreds of women and children have been rescued as part of an ongoing offensive against the group.
“The latest developments mean that the Nigerian military has not only reclaimed many towns in the north-east previously under Boko Haram control, but are now pushing further to rout them from their final hideouts,” added the BBC.
By starting to provide more documentary evidence to back up its claims of success, the Nigerian military has shown it is willing to get involved in the propaganda war as well.
Before that, the images from Boko Haram, including militants carrying out atrocities and their leader Abubakar Shekau taunting the government, instilled fear and hopelessness in the minds of many.
The last broadcast from Shekau was his pledge of allegiance to Islamic State in an audio clip in March.
But as we have seen from his group in the past, silence does not always imply that they have been significantly weakened.
Attacks credited to Boko Haram continue in both Nigeria and neighboring countries.
Army commanders say they don’t often find many bodies of the insurgents after battle, suggesting that the jihadists carry away their dead with them as they retreat.
It’s not clear if any senior Boko Haram figures have been captured during the recent operations, says Ryan Cummings, Chief Africa Analyst for the risk management firm Red24.
“With the leadership of the group still intact, Boko Haram may continue to possess the acumen to replenish, regroup, and rearm both within and outside of Nigeria’s borders.”
Then there is also the argument that until factors like poverty, unemployment and lack of education can be addressed, local populations will remain vulnerable to extremist ideology.
Apart from the Sambisa forest, a vast area based around a nature reserve of the same name, the group is also known to operate in the Mandara Mountains, which lie on the poorly-manned Cameroon-Nigeria border.
Fighting the group here would require greater cooperation between both countries – something that has been lacking – to combat their common enemy.
Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader, said one of his first moves after assuming office was to call a meeting of the regional leaders on a more proactive collaboration to end the conflict, which he has since done, and many do believe that now the tide is turning at last against Boko Haram, which is good news for many in the country of my birth.
Boko Haram at a glance supplied by the BBC:
* Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
* Launched military operations from Maiduguri in 2009
* Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including more than 200 schoolgirls
* Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS’s “West African province”Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
* Regional force has retaken most territory this year
Photo captions: Abubakar Shekau taunting the government in one of his many videos. 2) Nigerian soldiers have retaken many towns from Boko Haram in a recent offensive. 3_ The Nigerian army says it has rescued more than 700 people from Boko Haram camps. 4) Dan Wooding with his mother in Vom, Nigeria, shortly after his birth in 1940.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs –- “Windows on the World” and “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” — which are both broadcast on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv/) and a radio show called “Front Page Radio” on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com).
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