Thousands of Nigerian hunters prepare to chase Boko Haram - GulfToday

Thousands of Nigerian hunters prepare to chase Boko Haram

Vigilante and local hunters armed with locally made guns. File/AP

Thousands of Nigerian hunters, armed with charmed amulets and intimate knowledge of harsh terrain, are preparing an offensive against the Boko Haram extremists who have ravaged the northeast for a decade, calling it "high time" they help soldiers end the deadly insurgency.

Nigeria's government discouraged a similar offensive five years ago, calling it a suicide mission. This time it has the backing of the governor of Borno state, which has suffered the worst of the Boko Haram attacks.

Borno state's new Gov. Babagana Zulum, who inherited the conflict after winning election earlier this year, said he is tired of applying conventional strategies against an extremist group that has killed and abducted tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. The unrest has created a vast humanitarian crisis.

The governor recently approved the sourcing of at least 10,000 hunters to help end the fighting.

A group of hunters gather at a camp in Maiduguri Nigeria. File/AP 

The hunters are separate from the civilian self-defense forces that have sprung up in northeastern Nigeria to combat the Boko Haram insurgency. Usually inheriting their vocation, the hunters are seen as the only group with intimate knowledge of the forests and other terrain in the vast region near Lake Chad. They see their charms and amulets as protection from attack.

More than 5,000 are being mobilized from Nigeria and regional countries including Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, said one leader of the hunters, Baba Maigiwa.

"The majority of our men have returned to their various states and communities to go and bid their families farewell" but are on their way back to the Borno capital, Maiduguri, said another leader, Abdulkareem Umar.

He said the hunters had received 10 vehicles from the state government to help in transport but said they need 30 more, along with weapons.

"We have also made it clear to the authorities that the difference between the soldiers and the hunters is the military training and our knowledge of the jungle," he said. "But what unites us both is armament. So we need arms and ammunition, just like the soldiers. When that is done, the rest would be history, by the grace of God."

A younger hunter, 32-year-old Auwal Unar, called the upcoming offensive "a war to safeguard our future and the safety of our women and children."

He said the hunters believe in the potency of the charms they will carry into battle.

"We don't fear guns but fear only God," he said. "When we roar in the jungle even the lions fear because our fathers have tapped the secret of the forests, so Boko Haram will have no hiding place. They will have no choice than to surrender, or they die if they dare stand in our way."

Associated Press.

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