The Caliphate of Ashes

by Benedicte Kurzen

Nigeria, Baga, May 2015, Nigerian troops walk by one of the very few people remaining in town. This old man greets us. They patrol Baga every day. The city looks like a ghost town and those people are among the very few who could not escaped and who survived both the Boko Haram attacks and the battle between the Nigerian Armed Forces and the insurgents around the 20th of February.

Nigeria, Baga, May 2015, Nigerian troops walk by one of the very few people remaining in town. This old man greets us. They patrol Baga every day. The city looks like a ghost town and those people are among the very few who could not escaped and who survived both the Boko Haram attacks and the battle between the Nigerian Armed Forces and the insurgents around the 20th of February.

March 2015 – Baga, Bama, Gwoza, Michika, Mubi, Buni Yadi, Monguno... Our convoy races here and there... Helicopters, cars and planes from the earliest hours of the morning until night. Once the dust screen falls, clear air unveils the scars of the insurgents’ occupations and the fight which pushed them back to the Sambisa Forest. The few souls who saw it all are the elders, unable to flee from the Boko Haram expansion. They greet the army without knowing what they should dread more: the insurgents reign of fear or the Nigerian Army, who turned a blind eye for so long.

Nigeria, Madagali, March 2015, An Air Force officer observes the ground. The Nigerian Armed Forces are using ATR 42, for air surveillance and collect intelligence on the ground.

Nigeria, Madagali, March 2015, An Air Force officer observes the ground. The Nigerian Armed Forces are using ATR 42, for air surveillance and collect intelligence on the ground.

Nigeria, Buni Yadi, March 2015, Buni Yadi was captured last year in July, by Boko Haram. The town was used as a major Boko Haram basis, from where they could get supplies.

Nigeria, Buni Yadi, March 2015, Buni Yadi was captured last year in July, by Boko Haram. The town was used as a major Boko Haram basis, from where they could get supplies.

Nigeria, Mubi, March 2015, Nigerian troops patrol the streets of the recently recaptured city of Mubi in a stabilisation phase of the operation Zaman Lafiya.

Nigeria, Mubi, March 2015, Nigerian troops patrol the streets of the recently recaptured city of Mubi in a stabilisation phase of the operation Zaman Lafiya.

Nigeria, Madagali, March 2015, A motorcyclist, probably a Boko Haram insurgents is being tracked down from the ATR 42, for air surveillance and collect intelligence on the ground.

Nigeria, Madagali, March 2015, A motorcyclist, probably a Boko Haram insurgents is being tracked down from the ATR 42, for air surveillance and collect intelligence on the ground.

The Defense Forces can’t ignore the amplitude of the disaster any longer. Elections are coming and Goodluck Jonathan’s government launches the offensive in Nigeria, along with a coordinated military campaign with Chad, Niger and Cameroon. New military gear has been purchased from China and Russia, mercenaries have been hired and elections have been postponed.

A phone call from the Nigerian Defense Headquarters on an Saturday evening: ”The media will be shown the territories retaken from Boko Haram. You have to be at the Air Force Wing at 7:00 am.”

 

A war has taken place here and no one was there to see it

Nigeria, Gwoza, April 2015.

Nigeria, Gwoza, April 2015.

From Yola, Adamawa State, our small group is taken to different Task Force Brigades, who have been fighting recently. Of course, the shifting frontline is unaccessible – security reasons. Weeks before, the insurgents pledged allegiance to ISIS, but now they are on the run. The self proclaimed capital of their Caliphate, Gwoza, is destroyed, bombarded, burnt and free of their grip. Not far from the center, the convoy leads us to a slaughterhouse, next to it, in the desert landscape, lie corpses burnt by the sun and piled up one on top of the other. Some of them are tied up, hands behind their backs, executed.

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