Nigeria Region Tries to Rebuild After Brief Jihadist 'Coup'

Monday, 10 Jun 2013 04:32 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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"It was like a military coup two months ago when all the government officials ran away," the white-bearded elder said in describing the takeover of his northeastern Nigerian village in April by the jihadist group Boko Haram 
 
"We were in real difficulty when they were here; life was terrible — they extorted our money," the villager told the BBC when interviewed recently in his home city, Kirenowa, located 24 miles from Nigeria's  porous border with Cameroon.

For a brief period, Boko Haram's black flag replaced Nigeria's green and white one in several local villages.

Approximately three weeks ago, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in this part of the country, and the Nigerian military has driven Boko Haram out of Kirenowa.

But reminders of the fighting cover the countryside.

When the Nigerian military took foreign journalists a recent tour of the area, they saw many signs of destruction including a burnt-out church,  the remains of a torched police station, and  the carcass of a burnt car in front of a roofless, blackened building.

Even before the recent fighting, the regional landscape was bleak. Infrastructure was crumbling, and sections of a tarmac road looked "as though they have been hit by an earthquake," according to a BBC reporter who said road conditions are so poor that vehicles find it easier to drive on sand.

The Nigerian military says it is prepared to take action to prevent Boko Haram's return. 

Some of the Boko Haram militants have fled to Chad, "and we are making efforts to pursue them," said Nigerian Lt. Commander Danladi Hassan, who headed the military operation.

A villager in the nearby town of Marte said that as far back as January, Boko Haram militants had forced the closure of a school because of their opposition to Western education.

Other villagers expressed concern that the Islamists could return.

"We don't know what is going to happen," said one. "Only God knows."

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