Wave of defections hits Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists

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Wave of defections hits Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists

As many as 7,000 fighters for the shadowy Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, along with their family members, have defected since the death of the group’s leader. They’ve since been relocated to a compound in Maiduguri, a city they once terrorized, and nearby residents are fearful, the New York Times reports.

However weakened Boko Haram may be, it does not necessarily mean the militant threat has ended for the people of northeastern Nigeria. Fighters from a rival splinter group — the Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP — are moving into the vacuum left by the organization, bringing truckloads of military equipment with them.

Six former Boko Haram members spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity. Most described having surrendered largely for practical reasons — because they were tired of living in the bush, for instance, or because they felt the choice was between giving up to the government or going over to the ISWAP, where they feared being treated as slaves.

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Though hundreds of Boko Haram members have previously gone through Nigeria’s deradicalization program, Operation Safe Corridor, never before have thousands surrendered, as they have now.

A former top Boko Haram commander described seeing Abubakar Shekau, the group’s longtime leader, self-detonate when he was ambushed at his stronghold in the Sambisa forest. “It was devastating,” he said. “Sambisa was silent. Not even the sound of the flour grinder. The whole place was in mourning.

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