Monday, 13 July 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari dismisses entire military top brass as Boko Haram strikes



Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has sacked his entire military top brass, as Boko Haram militants mounted deadly attacks against civilians in the country's remote north-east.

A strike by a lone bomber in the restive city of Maiduguri and two women in the border town of Fotokol in northern Cameroon, killing 11 people, again underlined the regional threat posed by the Islamists.

Both came after a male suicide bomber, dressed as a woman and wearing a full-face veil, blew himself up at a crowded market in Chad's capital N'Djamena on Saturday, killing 15.


Mr Buhari's purge of senior military commanders inherited from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was widely expected but is the clearest demonstration yet of his quest for a fresh start.

"President Buhari thanks the outgoing service chiefs and national security advisor for their services to the nation and wishes them well in their future endeavours," his office said in a statement.

The former military ruler has made ending the insurgency his top priority but Boko Haram has intensified its campaign since he came to power on May 29, killing some 570 people in Nigeria alone.

At least 15,000 have been killed since 2009.

Promises to halt Boko Haram unfulfilled


The new appointments are Mr Buhari's first to senior roles in his administration, as he looks to overhaul a military that struggled to take on Boko Haram throughout all of last year.

The outgoing chief of defence staff Alex Badeh and heads of the army, navy and air force were appointed in January 2014 after a daring raid by the Islamists against military installations in Maiduguri.

Mr Badeh promised at his investiture in January last year that the insurgency "must be brought to a complete stop before April 2014" — but if anything, the violence has worsened.

In April last year, militant fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, provoking global outrage.

Mr Jonathan's administration and the military were criticised for their response and Mr Badeh promised the 219 girls' swift return yet nothing has been seen or heard from them since May last year.

His time in the post also saw Boko Haram overrun vast tracts of north-eastern Nigeria, capturing towns and villages and even proclaiming a self-styled caliphate.

Demoralised frontline troops were seemingly unable to prevent the take-over and protested over a lack of arms and ammunition to take on the better-armed rebels.

Procurement since the end of last year, the arrival of foreign mercenaries and assistance from Cameroon, Chad and Niger have apparently reversed the unprecedented land grab.

But the rebels have since allied themselves to the Islamic State group, handing a potentially more troubling portfolio to Mr Badeh's successor, major-general Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin.

There will also be questions over who heads the new, regional force due to deploy at the end of the month, with the appointment of major-general Tukur Yusuf Buratai as chief of army staff.

Mr Buratai had been acting as commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, which has its headquarters in N'Djamena.

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