Israel 'crucial and loyal ally in fight against Boko Haram,' says Nigerian gov't spokesperson

A Nigerian government spokesman: “Israel has been a crucial and loyal ally in our fight against Boko Haram. It is a sad reality that Israel has a great deal of experience confronting terrorism.”

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February 20, 2015 11:46
2 minute read.
A girl displaced as a result of Boko Haram attack in the northeast region of Nigeria

A girl displaced as a result of Boko Haram attack in the northeast region of Nigeria, rests her head on a desk at Maikohi secondary school camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Yola. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A Nigerian government spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Israel has been a crucial and loyal ally in the fight against the radical Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

“Israel has been a crucial and loyal ally in our fight against Boko Haram. It is a sad reality that Israel has a great deal of experience confronting terrorism,” Mike Omeri, the chief coordinating spokesman of the National Information Center, based in Abuja said. “Our Israeli partners have used that experience, and the unique expertise gained over years of fighting terror within its own borders, to assist us.”

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Omeri said they have been incredibly supportive with the training and the tools required to defeat Boko Haram.

Asked what role the US government has in the fight against the terrorist group, he responded that “the American and Nigerian militaries have a long history of close cooperation, strategic alliance, and shared values.”

Nigerian warplanes bombed training camps and equipment belonging to Boko Haram in the northeast’s Sambisa forest on Thursday, the military said, adding momentum to an assault meant to crush the rebels also involving neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

After a year in which Boko Haram seemed to be gaining ground, seizing swathes of territory, killing thousands of people and kidnapping hundreds of mostly women and children, the tide may now be turning against them, as neighboring countries plagued by cross-border attacks have weighed in.

Nigerian forces backed by air power killed more than 300 Boko Haram fighters since the start of the week, the military said on Wednesday, though it was not possible to corroborate this and the military has been accused of exaggerating enemy casualties and understating its own and those of civilians.

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Omeri said Nigeria is simultaneously recapturing numerous territories, defending against new attacks on key areas, and destroying Boko Haram bases.

Yunana Shibkau, a Christian activist for the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice, who is from northern Nigeria, said the situation is extremely dangerous for Christians in the north.

Shibkau said its similar to the situation Israel is in, being surrounded by enemies.

“I am like an Israeli settler in the West Bank in the midst of Palestinians,” he said.

When Shibkau was in primary school in the early 1970s, Islamists criticized him and called him “Boko Haram” – meaning “Western education is sinful.”

For that reason, the Muslim areas are poorer and less educated than Christian areas.

Shibkau says the challenger in the upcoming elections, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, who has supported Sharia law there, is a fundamentalist sympathizer “who plans on rigging the elections.”

Some parts of the Muslim community in Nigeria, led by  certain members of the political elite in the north and clerics that work to radicalize communities, are not interested in fighting against Boko Haram, Shibkau said.

Rev. Sunday Lakong, a Nigerian pastor, said this is not a conventional war since Muslims live among the people.

Christians have fled dangerous areas in the north and many now lie in churches or are homeless, he said, adding that the government is also helping deal with the refugees.

Nigeria is “being neglected by the world. Boko Haram is killing people and nobody seems to care what happens,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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