The kidnapping of about 100 girls by suspected Boko Haram fighters in Dapchi, northeastern Nigeria, shows that the jihadist group still has the capacity to mount large-scale operations, four years after the kidnapping high school girls from Chibok.
As the Nigerian army squares the region, devastated by nine years of insurgency, how have they been able to abduct more than 100 students, without encountering any resistance and fainting in nature?
A week after the night raid on 19 February, many questions remain, even though the testimonies and analyzes collected by AFP are reminiscent of a “well-planned” attack targeting the public school for girls in Dapchi, in the state of Yobe.
The inhabitants of this dusty locality, near the border with Niger, described the arrival of a convoy of “at least 10 to 15” vehicles, at the time when most were at the mosque for prayer evening.
The armed men who descended from there immediately took over the direction of the girls’ boarding school, without showing any particular aggression towards the population, who holed up at her home, while hundreds of students fled in the bush in the bush. darkness. In all, 111 of them can not be found.
This attack, but also the confusion that followed, is reminiscent of the kidnapping of 276 high school girls in Chibok in April 2014, which had given a tragic international notoriety to Boko Haram – whose name means “Western education is a sin” in Hausa.
The group was then at the peak of its power, controlling vast territories. Although he is now weakened by Nigerian army offensives, which has repeatedly claimed to have “crushed the terrorists,” Boko Haram still has an obvious strike force.
“If they removed more than 100 girls, that meant there was a lot of logistics up and a safe place to take them. It can not be a spontaneous act, “said Yan St Pierre, Counter Terrorism Consultant at Mosecon (Modern Security Consulting Group).
Another disturbing element, revealed by Ibrahim Gaidam, the governor of Yobe State: the soldiers who held strategic checkpoints in Dapchi had left the city last month to be redeployed elsewhere.
The only defense for the city was the usual number of police forces “who fled into the bush” when the jihadists arrived, a resident, Mohammed Adam, 27, confirmed.
Another resident of Dapchi, who does not wish to be identified, is worried about possible local complicities: “I believe that informants warned them that the troops had withdrawn, which allowed them to enter “.
– Tactical approximations –
The city was previously spared, although Boko Haram continues to carry out bloody raids in Yobe State, like the one on December 25 against a military post, which killed nine soldiers. He was claimed by the faction led by Abu Mossad Al Barnaoui, affiliated with the Islamic State group.
This dissident faction of that of the historical leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau – especially active in the neighboring state of Borno and on the border of Cameroon – operates in a vast territory on the borders of Lake Chad and Niger, including the State. from Yobe.
According to some observers, the Dapchi attack bears the signature of Barnaoui who, unlike Shekau, who was the source of numerous suicide bombings in markets and mosques, has the reputation of avoiding attacking Muslim civilians. .
“No civilians were wounded, which is similar to how it works,” said a militia official hired by the army against Boko Haram. “Even in the villages they attacked in the area they did not touch anyone, they just looted food.”
The abduction remains a common practice for Boko Haram, from all walks of life, since the beginning of the conflict that has killed 20,000 and nearly 2.6 million displaced in the north-east, says Yan St Pierre.
“It is very difficult to know who is behind this attack, because the divisions are not what they were,” says the researcher, who evokes “tactical rapprochements” or “joint operations” conducted in recent months by the Shekau and Barnaoui fighters.
Nigerian media quoted local security sources as saying on Monday that some of the hostages were taken to neighboring Niger to prevent the Nigerian army from chasing them.