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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Visits Nigeria March 6th

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Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State is expected to visit Nigeria and four other African countries from March 6 to 13, the U.S. Department of State has said. Rex Tillerson Spokesperson for the Department, Ms Heather Nauert said Tillerson would also travel to Addis Ababa, Djibouti, Nairobi and N’Djamena. During his visit to Abuja, Tillerson is expected to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government functionaries.

Nauert said: “On his first official trip to Africa, Secretary Rex Tillerson will travel to N’Djamena, Chad; Djibouti, Djibouti; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya and Abuja, Nigeria, March 6-13, 2018. “The U.S. Secretary o State will meet with leadership in each country, as well as the leadership of the African Union Commission based in Addis Ababa. “This is to further our partnerships with the governments and people of Africa. “In particular, he plans to discuss ways we can work with our partners to counter terrorism, advance peace and security, promote good governance, and spur mutually beneficial trade and investment.”

During his trip, Tillerson will also meet with the U.S. Embassy personnel and participate in events related to U.S. government-supported activities. 

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/03/948075/

louannsabatierU.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Visits Nigeria March 6th
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Nigeria’s President Buhari to visit state where 110 schoolgirls were abducted

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Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday will begin visits to areas affected by terrorism, including Yobe, where 110 girls were abducted by suspected Boko Haram militants.The President will visit the northeast state to console the communities affected in areas worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency, an aide said in a statement. It is not clear whether he will visit the school in Dapchi where the girls were taken on February 19.

The decision was taken after accessing comprehensive reports from security agencies on incidents in affected states, the statement said.
“Having received and studied the reports, the President has decided to undertake an on-the-spot assessment of the various occurrences and to meet and console the communities affected.
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“He will visit Taraba, and subsequently Benue, Yobe, Zamfara and Rivers States, ” wrote Femi Adesina, special adviser to Buhari.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian lawyer who has worked as mediator between the group and the government claimed Friday that a Boko Haram faction had contacted her about the schoolgirls. Aisha Wakil, who is also known as “Mama Boko Haram,” said the group assured her that the girls would not be harmed.
“We read what you said and Insha Allah, we are with the girls,” Wakil quoted the abductors saying in the video. Wakil said she asked the group whether she could meet with the kidnapped girls. “I tried to ask them when I can come and stay with them (girls) for few days…..they didn’t tell me anything.”
“I can assure Nigeria that so far, my son Habib…..he will not harm them(girls), he will not touch them, he will not kill them,” Wakil said.
Her reference to Habib suggests that the Dapchi girls have been taken by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who broke away from the leader Abubakar Shekau last year April to form his own group. Al-Barnawi, also known as Habib Yusuf, is the second son of Mohammed Yusuf, who founded the group in 2002.
He was introduced as the new leader of Boko Haram in an interview in the ISIS’ magazine al-Naba in March 2017. Boko Haram has long had links with ISIS, pledging allegiance to the group in 2015.
The President’s visit to the northeast comes after he was criticized for attending a high-profile wedding Saturday in the same region where the school girls were kidnapped. Many said it was insensitive particularly considering that three aid workers were killed in an attack on military facilities in the same region, just one day before the event.
louannsabatierNigeria’s President Buhari to visit state where 110 schoolgirls were abducted
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Nigerian government to extend search for Dapchi girls to neighboring countries

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The ongoing search for the 110 girls who were abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State, has been extended to the neighbouring countries, the Federal Government has announced.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said top military and security officials on Thursday travelled to the North-east to add urgency to the search, which has now been extended beyond the North-east theatre.

The officials include the nation’s top military officer and Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; Tukur Buratai and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura.

They joined the Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, who had earlier relocated to the North-east, as well as the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno (Rtd), who has also visited the theatre.

The Federal Government had earlier released the names and other details of the 110 girls who have yet to be accounted for, following the attack on the GGSTC, Dapchi, Yobe State, on 19 Feb. 2018.

The panel set up by the Federal Government to unravel the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the girls was inaugurated on Thursday by the NSA.

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Nigeria’s Middle Belt Report: Fulani Militants and Boko Haram Wreak Havoc By Nathan Johnson

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Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In light of the ever escalating violence in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, International Christian Concern (ICC) will be publishing monthly reports throughout 2018. The reports will focus on the actions of Fulani militants and Boko Haram terrorists against Christian villages in the Middle Belt.
The month of January was particularly devastating for Christians in the Middle Belt. The region consists of the states straddled by the predominately Muslim north and predominately Christian south, including Adamawa, Benue, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), as well as the southern parts of Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, and Borno States. This region has historically been one of the most violent and war-torn areas of Nigeria.
In January, ICC documented at least 44 attacks by Fulani militants on Christian farming villages that killed over 170 people and destroyed thousands of homes and other properties. ICC also documented eight Boko Haram attacks on communities which resulted in the deaths of 65 people.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian military also contributed to the number of individuals killed in the Middle Belt in January. According to sources in Adamawa state, military aircraft inadvertently killed nearly 35 Christians. The military says that the aircraft, including three jets and one helicopter, were meant to deter fighting between the two communities, but whether this is true or not, it did not help and only contributed to the total number of Christians killed in the Middle Belt region.
According to International Christian Concern, in January 2018, the total number of Christians killed in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria is over 250.
This number represents nearly a 40 percent increase in the number of Christians killed by Fulani and Boko Haram militants in January 2017. In January 2017, the Fulani perpetrated roughly 23 attacks on Christian communities, killing more than 75 people. Over that same time period, Boko Haram attacked 20 times and claimed over 105 lives. These numbers paint a bleak future for Christians trying to survive in the Middle Belt. If the statistics hold, they could mean a significant increase in the total number of Christians killed in the Middle Belt region, from around 1,900 total deaths in 2017 to more than 2,600 total deaths in 2018.
Below is a list of the biggest attacks and groupings of attacks ICC documented in January 2018.
January 1-3: Fulani militants killed more than 50 Christians in six villages located in Benue (Tom-Atar and Umenge, Akor villages in Guma and Ayilamo, Turan, Ngambe-Tiev in Logo local government area).
January 5-6: Fulani militants killed 15 Christian villagers in two villages in Benue (Tse Akombo, Tse Vii and Tse Agule).
January 16-17: Fulani militants attacked and killed 29 people in five villages in Taraba (Gishiri, Dooshima, Danwaza, Wukari, and Donnada).
This dramatic increase in violence is a troubling sign for the year to come. Continued attacks will lead to further deaths, destabilization, and the devastation of the most fertile land in Nigeria. The government must step in and control the situation. It must end the violence that is tearing apart families, communities, and religious organizations.
louannsabatierNigeria’s Middle Belt Report: Fulani Militants and Boko Haram Wreak Havoc By Nathan Johnson
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Dapchi: CAN breaks silence on schoolgirls’ abduction

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The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Friday, March 1, 2018 expressed dismay on the security lapses in Nigeria, which it said led to the abduction of 110 Dapchi schoolgirls.

In a statement sent to DAILY POST by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant to the CAN President, Rev Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle on Friday, CAN said it was disappointed that despite repeated claims of victory over Boko Haram by the Buhari Government, the sect has continued to muster strength with effrontery to dare the administration in different ways.

It said the Dapchi incident has put Nigerian in deeper mourning about the unsecured future of Nigerian school children, most especially the females, given the failure of the government to ensure the rescue of all the Chibok girls who had earlier been kidnaped.

CAN added that the abduction of Dapchi schoolgirls by Boko Haram, almost unchallenged has offered the Federal Government a window of opportunity to look inward and to probe the incident to unravel the myth and invincibility around the Boko Haram terrorists.

It also called on the Federal government to interrogate the entire security apparatus in Nigeria with intent to detect moles and possible collaborators among the officers who, it stressed must face severe sanctions if found wanting.

CAN said, “We found it incongruous and reprehensible that there is no unanimity of purpose among security agencies in Nigeria, given the discordant tunes by the agencies. This has not been auguring well for the battle to contain terrorism in the country.

“We urge President Buhari to rise to the occasion as a leader and ensure harmony and enhanced professionalism among security agencies as a way of positioning them for the task of wrestling insurgency to stand still in Nigeria.

“Our Military should learn from their past and present mistakes by doing less of propaganda while facing the war against Boko Haram terrorists with zeal to root them out once and for all.

“In our view, the Government of President Buhari should urgently call for international support in the combat against terrorism as its incapacity in the battle against insurgency in Nigeria is becoming
more glaring.

“Nigeria is increasingly reeling into a war situation with life expectancy getting shorter by the day amid massive killings by Boko Haram in the North East, Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt, armed gangs in the southern region, a reason we opined that calling for international support may not be out of place.

louannsabatierDapchi: CAN breaks silence on schoolgirls’ abduction
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WASHINGTON POST: Covering the World’s Biggest Hunger Crisis, I Saw People With Nothing Give Everything to Save a Life

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Elijah Karama, 59, stands in the hallway of his home in Simari, Nigeria. Karama has housed up to 50 people at a time who were displaced by the Boko Haram conflict over the past three years, in addition to the 20 members of his own family who live in his home. (Jane Hahn/for The Washington Post)

— The old man’s house had become a camp for the displaced. In the back yard, groups of women boiled water for rice. Small children skittered across the dirt, running into the bedroom, where they swirled around the long, skinny legs of Elijah Karama.

“Because of the conditions, they are mine to take care of,” said Karama, 57, more tired than proud.

By conditions, he meant Boko Haram’s destruction of vast areas of northeastern Nigeria, and the hunger crisis that has followed. This city of about 1 million has absorbed an additional 1 million people who fled the Islamist militants who burned their villages and kidnapped hundreds of children.

In Maiduguri, the vast majority of the displaced aren’t living in U.N. camps. Instead, they are eating and sleeping and praying in private homes, whose residents have opened their doors to the newly homeless — the poor housing the poorer.

Over the past few months I’ve reported from Somalia, South ­Sudan and Nigeria, sites of the three largest hunger crises in sub-Saharan Africa. In each country, overstretched humanitarian organizations have failed to raise sufficient funds to feed and house all of those in need. An untold number of people, most of them children, have died of malnutrition and preventable diseases. The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, and says the other two nations are in danger of suffering the same tragedy.

 

But in each of those countries, I’ve been struck by the way some of the world’s poorest people have stepped in to fill the void. Such generosity in no way erases the massive need for international assistance. But we often overlook the ways that Africa’s most desperate people are managing to help one another.

In the South Sudanese town of Ganyiel, where thousands of families converged in recent months to escape fighting and possible starvation in nearby villages, there weren’t enough tents or huts, so the newly arrived slept outside in the dirt. The U.N. World Food Program couldn’t keep up with the pace of arrivals in the northern town, and malnutrition was growing among those in the makeshift camp.

Yet the families of Ganyiel, with almost nothing of their own, shared whatever they could. That meant splitting tiny portions of corn or fish or fruit. It meant lending bed mats to the elderly, and sharing space in cramped huts. It’s not just that I found their generosity moving but that it truly saved lives. People ate who might otherwise have gone hungry. People found shelter from the 100-degree heat who might otherwise have shriveled in the sun.

“We live thanks to the people of Ganyiel who share their food,” ­Veronica Nyariel, 43, told me. She wore a pink shirt and a black shawl that had taken on the color of the dirt that she slept on.

In Baidoa, Somalia, I saw another displacement camp that had emerged out of nothing, as thousands of people fled a hunger crisis caused by both drought and violence inflicted by al-Shabab militants. Again, international organizations had arrived, but they hadn’t brought enough food or shelter for everyone.

After Mohamed Iman arrived in Baidoa in early March, he went wandering through the poor, embattled city, which was once controlled by al-Shabab. Months earlier, he had been a farmer. Now he was a beggar. The people of Baidoa gave and gave: food, clothes, shelter.

 

“Some of them know me, and some of them don’t, but they all help,” said Iman, 56.

It’s true that in each of the three countries threatened by famine, the provider and the recipient of charity are often members of the same tribe or the same ethnic group or, at the very least, victims of the same oppressor. These days, we hear mostly about how tribalism divides so many African countries, and it’s often true.

South Sudan has been decimated by a war that has increasingly fallen along ethnic lines, mostly between the Dinka and Nuer groups. The north-south divide in Nigeria severs the country socially and economically. Somalia is riven not just by the government’s war against radical Islamists but by the countless fractures between clans and sub-clans. In each country, those divisions have contributed to the severe hunger crises.

But the other side of that factionalism is the cohesion within smaller communities and groups, and the charity it begets.

“Whenever there’s a disaster or a crisis, especially in places hard to reach, these communities help themselves before international organizations arrive to help,” said ­Patricia Danzi, the head of Africa operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Of all the people I’ve met this year, no one illustrated that kind of charity better than Elijah Karama, the 57-year-old in northern Nigeria.

He had retired a few years ago after a career as an electrical engineer, building himself a small concrete house on the outskirts of Maiduguri. But when Boko Haram surged across the region in 2013 and 2014, one family after another arrived at his door.

They were members of the same Kanuri ethnic group, distant cousins he’d never met or heard of. At the peak, more than 70 people were sleeping at his home, crammed together on his floor and in small tents he had erected in the back yard. He bought bags full of rice and beans, running through his savings.

The United Nations had been woefully slow to react to the crisis. There were few camps and little food aid.

There are still several dozen people camping out at his home. “It is compulsory to help them,” Karama said. He pointed to the cluster of people who crouched around him.

“Their houses are gone. They only have what you can see.”

louannsabatierWASHINGTON POST: Covering the World’s Biggest Hunger Crisis, I Saw People With Nothing Give Everything to Save a Life
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IRIN – Boko Haram: Down, But Not Out

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UNHCR

Author Note

Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, an Abuja-based policy advocacy and research organisation. This op-ed is part of a special project exploring violent extremism in Nigeria and the Sahel

The Nigerian government has declared victory over the Boko Haram insurgency. The capture at the end of December of Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest, the last stronghold of the jihadists, seemed to herald the formal beginning of the post-insurgency phase in northeastern Nigeria.

The negotiated return last month of 82 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls (an estimated 113 are still in captivity) has been presented as further evidence that the back of the seven-year-old insurgency has been broken.

The government and its development partners are already starting post-war reconstruction in the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Humanitarian conditions remain dire, but houses and schools are being rebuilt, seedlings distributed, and empowerment training schemes launched.

Concerns

Amid all this optimism, it is important to acknowledge lingering causes for concern.

While Camp Zero has been dismantled, the reality is that Boko Haram is an adaptable foe. It is reportedly both forming new enclaves in the Lake Chad Basin and melting back into civilian communities.

The rumours are of profitable business partnerships being formed – especially in the fish and cattle trade. Some fishermen, for example, are supplying their catch to Boko Haram middlemen who sell on their behalf.

And Boko Haram’s network is far deeper than commonly realised. The State Security Service is regularly turning up insurgents across northern Nigeria, and in one case as far away as the western state of Ekiti.

Boko Haram is known for its attacks on civilians and suicide bombings. So far in May there have been 12 suicide bombings (by nine women, three men) – a tempo that suggests the insurgency is far from over.

But since the movement split into two factions led by Abubaker Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi back in August, there has been a change of tactics. Al-Barnawi’s group had criticised Shekau for attacking soft civilian targets, tactics that won Boko Haram few voluntary recruits. Al-Barnawi’s group is much more explicitly targeting the military.

Since November, 11 military installations have been attacked, with 40 soldiers killed. In April alone, 20 soldiers died in raids on four army posts. The weaponry they have captured, and the motorbikes instead of vehicles they favour, means they are mobile and well-armed.

Al-Barnawi’s faction still loots villages for food, fuel, and medical supplies, even if it does appear to be deliberately avoiding killing civilians – as long as they don’t resist.

The government’s inability to completely block the sources of financing for the insurgents continues to pose a challenge. Boko Haram still has money to wage its war, typically raised through kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and taxes/levies on businesses.

The strained relationship between the vigilante Civilian Joint Task Force and the military is also affecting the government’s prosecution of the conflict. Since the arrest in February of the founder of the CJTF, Bah Lawan, over his alleged links to Boko Haram, some vigilante leaders are refusing to cooperate with the army.

The CJTF, one of the most effective weapons the military has against Boko Haram, has also been reportedly weakened by factionalism and indiscipline. Regular complaints of irregular pay from the Borno State government and the lack of health insurance and even fuel for their vehicles is affecting morale.

Power of the word

Boko Haram’s ideology, that Westernisation is evil, still has resonance. Rural northeastern Nigeria is highly conservative. While the insurgency’s violence is not approved of, its broad worldview has power and can still attract sympathy.

One 45-year-old woman who was held hostage in Sambisa, and served as a teacher in the camp, was honest enough to tell me she now regretted leaving Boko Haram.

Alleged corruption and sexual exploitation by security forces and aid workers also plays into the militants’ messaging. There is a powerful narrative that girls and women in IDP camps are either being sexually abused or forced into sex-for-food arrangements. Reports of the flagrant use of alcohol and drugs by the army and the CJTF also do not sit well with traditional cultural norms.

The government has a disarmament and reintegration plan dubbed Operation Safe Corridor. More than 4,500 former combatants have surrendered, but the framework for the strategy remains opaque, and it contains real risks.

There are fears that some so-called “deradicalised” Boko Haram are not repentant at all. There are questions over their screening, certification, and whether communities are ready for their return and reintegration.

Some ex-combatants have been deeply indoctrinated. As one man told me: “You cannot believe in one part of the Koran and not in the other part of the Koran, [which includes] killing”.

Then there are the detainees accused of being Boko Haram – those who have suffered abuse at the hands of the security forces and have likely been radicalised as a result of that experience but are then released.

Negotiations

Hope that the freeing of the Chibok schoolgirls could be a step towards possible negotiations was dealt a blow by Shuaibu Moni, one of the (at least) five Boko Haram commanders swapped for the released school girls.

In a video released barely a week after he gained his freedom, he was threatening to bomb Abuja and denying there could be any dialogue with the government. “Only war is between us!” he declared.

While we must give kudos to the military and the Nigerian government for improving security in the northeast, it is safe to say the conflict is far from over.

There is still some way to go.

The government must immediately prioritise a hearts-and-minds approach. The focus of the war now should be on combatting the ideology of Boko Haram; there should be an emphasis on healing trauma in a society scarred by the violence.

And while the path of dialogue is a difficult journey, the idea of peace through negotiation must not be jettisoned.

louannsabatierIRIN – Boko Haram: Down, But Not Out
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ABC NEWS: Nigeria Presidency Releases Names of 82 Freed Chibok Girls

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Nigeria’s presidency released the names of the 82 Chibok schoolgirls newly freed from Boko Haram extremists which parents anxiously scoured to see if their daughters were released three years after their capture.

The list was published early Monday after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with the young women before announcing he was leaving for London immediately for medical checkups as fears over his health continue.

Nigerians gathered in front of newsstands Monday looking at the names of freed schoolgirls in local papers.

Some parents of the kidnapped girls are in the capital, Abuja. Others stayed at their homes in northeastern Nigeria, waiting to see if their daughters were released after the mass abduction from a Chibok boarding school in 2014. Now they will be able to verify if they should make the journey. Following the weekend release, 113 Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.

Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the 82 girls’ freedom, a Nigerian government official said Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter. Neither Nigeria’s government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange.

Photos released by the government Sunday showed the rail-thin president addressing the Chibok schoolgirls at his official residence Sunday evening, a day after their release.

Minutes later, the 74-year-old Buhari startled Africa’s most populous nation with the news of his departure. Buhari, who has missed three straight weekly Cabinet meetings and spent a month and a half in London on medical leave earlier this year, said he’d never been as sick in his life. The exact nature of his illness remains unclear.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria’s borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping horrified the world and brought the extremist group international attention.

Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released, underscoring the tragedy of the three-year saga.

Boko Haram seized a total of 276 girls in the 2014 abduction. Girls who escaped early on said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said.

Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

Last year, a first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October, and they have been in government care for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation.

———

Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja and Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegalcontributed to this report.

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ABC NEWS: Boko Haram Behind Thousands of Child Deaths

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A campaign of violence led by terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries is responsible for the deaths of nearly 4,000 children, according to a new United Nationsreport.

Attacks by Boko Haram on communities and clashes between the group and security forces from 2013 up to this year have led to at least 3,900 deaths among people 18 and under in addition to more than 7,000 injured.

In a disturbing trend, suicide attacks have accounted for a growing number of the casualties among minors. Investigators say they verified the use of 90 children for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger — the majority of them being girls.

PHOTO: A woman pushes a wheelbarrow carrying a jerrycan filled with water as Nigerian soldiers patrol in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A woman pushes a wheelbarrow carrying a jerrycan filled with water as Nigerian soldiers patrol in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. more +

“With tactics including widespread recruitment and use, abductions, sexual violence, attacks on schools and the increasing use of children in so-called ‘suicide’ attacks, Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria’s north-east and neighbouring countries,” Virginia Gamba, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said in a statement on Thursday.

The U.N. said that thousands of children in northeast Nigeria and bordering countries have been recruited by Boko Haram. Investigators gathered testimony indicating that the group kidnapped many of the children it counts among its ranks but that others join voluntarily for economic gain or over pressure applied on their families by the group.

PHOTO: A man, injured by an IED, sits with others outside his tent in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A man, injured by an IED, sits with others outside his tent in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. more +

Boko Haram fighters then employ the children in “direct hostilities,” including in suicide bombings, planting improvised explosive devices, and engaging in attacks on civilian populations, the report says.

The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a group of citizens backed by the Nigerian government, has also used children, some as young as 9 year old, in its campaign to counter Boko Haram.

PHOTO: A member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) screens an old person at the entrance of the town of Damasak in North East Nigeria, April, 25 2017.Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) screens an old person at the entrance of the town of Damasak in North East Nigeria, April, 25 2017.more +

Last month marked three years since Boko Haram militants ambushed the small Nigerian town of Chibok in the middle of the night and abducted 276 schoolgirls before vanishing into the forest.

Nearly 200 of the girls remain missing despite a high-profile social media campaign that prompted millions of people, including celebrities and former first lady Michelle Obama, to bring attention to the cause by using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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BLOOMBERG: Nigerian Military Says It Freed 400 Boko Haram Hostages

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Nigerian troops freed more than 400 hostages held by Boko Haram militants in the northeastern state of Borno, a military official said.

Soldiers raided more than 10 villages near the border with Cameroon where the hostages were held and destroyed hideouts in the area maintained by the Islamist militant group, Sani Usman, a spokesman for the military, said in an e-mailed statement.

President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped up military efforts to end the eight-year insurgency of Boko Haram, which wants to impose its version of Islamic rule in Africa’s most populous country of more than 180 million people. Nigeria is roughly split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

louannsabatierBLOOMBERG: Nigerian Military Says It Freed 400 Boko Haram Hostages
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