Buhari: Nigeria Close to Eradicating Boko Haram

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President Muhammadu Buhari delivers 2016 budget at the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria December 22. According to Buhari, the Nigerian Army is close to defeating Boko Haram. Stringer/Reuters

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has told the BBC that the country's military is close to defeating Boko Haram, despite the militant group continuing its campaign of suicide bombings in West Africa.

Buhari set his military a deadline of the end of December to reclaim all Nigerian territory held by the insurgents, recently ranked as the world's deadliest militant group . While the Nigerian Army have had a number of recent successes, in capturing Boko Haram militants and freeing captives, the group have continued carrying out attacks in Nigeria and neighboring countries, including Cameroon.

Buhari, who made defeating the group a key pledge of his successful presidential campaign, told the BBC he believed that "technically, we have won the war," since Boko Haram could no longer stage conventional attacks on security forces or population centres. "Boko Haram has reverted to using improvised explosive devices [IEDs]," said Buhari. "They have now been reduced to that." The president's claims, however, appear easily contested: in late November, Boko Haram claimed an attack on a Shiite pilgrimage procession in the northern Kano state, killing 21, and were also linked to the detonation of two suicide bombs at a crowded market in Kano earlier in November.

According to the BBC, Boko Haram's six-year insurgency, which began in 2009 in northeast Nigeria, has killed some 17,000 people. UNICEF said on Tuesday that the violence, perpetrated by the militants in Nigeria and neighboring countries, has forced more than one million children out of school. Vigilante groups of armed civilians have sprung up in Nigeria and Cameroon in a bid to root out the militants.

Founded in 2002 but launching military operations in 2009 and led by Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram declared allegiance to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in March and has since rebranded itself as the group's West Africa province.

Buhari claimed that the militants had been largely driven out of Adamawa and Yobe states and their last remaining stronghold was in Borno state.