By Madalena Araujo, CNN
Boko Haram is not considered to be in control of any part of Nigeria, the country’s top military spokesman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday in the wake of what has been described by Amnesty International as the terror group’s “deadliest attack” to date.
“Yes, the activities of terrorism - they are prevalent in certain isolated communities, here and there. It is part of the reality of the moment, we recognize such as a thing to be addressed, but we have never considered that any portion of Nigeria is under their control,” Major General Chris Olukolade said.
He said that while the extremists’ “activities may be prevalent in such places, we have in plan the appropriate measures to reverse any of their activities now and ensure minimum effect on property and civilians, and ensure that in the process of flushing them out of the areas where they operate now we don’t cause collateral damage to our individuals.”
Boko Haram’s raid on January 3rd saw hundreds of gunmen capture the north-eastern town of Baga, neighboring towns as well as a multinational military base. It is thought to have left as many as 2,000 dead, though authorities have yet to access the remote area.
“The issue of figures still remains controversial considering the fact that, yes we are aware that very terrible atrocities took place in Baga on the 3rd of January, when the terrorists – on their attack upon the town, not only destroyed property, they also attacked innocent civilians and at the end of their activities a lot of destruction in terms of arson was recorded.”
“We also know that in the process a large number of individuals died, but terrorists themselves also died in that attack because of course in this process of repelling it a number of them were victims, so a large number of human beings died in that attack.”
Nearly two weeks after the massacre took place, before and after satellite pictures released by Amnesty International on Thursday started to paint a picture of the scale of the destruction.
“As I speak to you,” Olukolade told Amanpour, “we have covert operations still gathering what we require in the form of intelligence to embark on subsequent operations, but in not just that area but all other areas where the activities of terrorists have become prevalent."
He insisted that the military “needs to be very careful, and as much as possible conventional and professional in this approach. We need to be very careful in our approach so we can ensure that we don’t cause more damage to our citizens.”
Boko Haram’s attacks killed more than 10,000 last year alone, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Also on the program was General Carter Ham, the former Chief of U.S. Africa Command, who said that it had become clear to him “that certainly over the past year or two, that as Boko Haram has gained momentum, and extended its reach across northern Nigeria, the Nigerian army by itself has not been able to effectively counter Boko Haram to date.”
“If we’ve learned nothing else over the past decade, we’ve learned that no nation by itself can deal with this threat of terrorism, and so I think a much broader regional approach is required in the case of Boko Haram,” Ham added.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have fled to neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, whose military efforts have “been encouraging,” Ham said.
“But I think again, I think Boko Haram’s capabilities surpass that of the nation’s commitments so far and I think perhaps again a more cohesive and energised international commitment, perhaps under the hospices of the African Union – such as [what] the African Union has organized in Somalia, might be the kind of approach that is necessary to help Nigeria through this particularly difficult period.”
According to Washington’s Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria halted a U.S. training program of its soldiers in early December.
“I think there is more that can be done but it begins with Nigeria willingly accepting the offers of assistance not only from the United States but from other nations as well.”
Click above to watch the full segment.