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LAGOS, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - The president of Nigeria is officially declaring that Boko Haram has been defeated.
Announcing the Islamic group's defeat Saturday, Christmas Eve, President Muhammadu Buhari said, "I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at 'Camp Zero,' which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest."
Although Boko Haram had seemed undefeatible in 2014, taking over a large swath of northeastern Nigeria and declaring a caliphate, in early 2015 it began to suffer significant defeats and loss of territory, finally retreating to its last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, head of the diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria, which suffered the worst of Boko Haram's atrocities, predicted in October the terror group's forthcoming defeat, saying it would "soon fizzle out." He credited Our Lady for its downfall and the faithful's constant praying of the Rosary.
In April 2015, Bp. Doeme claimed he had a vision in which Christ told him Boko Haram would be defeated through the Rosary. Since then, the bishop has been encouraging the world to pray the Rosary to crush the Islamic militants.
At least one fellow Nigerian bishop expressed hope in signs of Boko Haram's defeat. Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo said in spring of 2015, "[T]he bombing and the killing has largely diminished. In many parts of the north of Nigeria where you couldn't go before, now you can hear a pin drop. People are returning to their homes, and Boko Haram is largely consigned to the borders of Nigeria."
Even so, the terrorist group continued its attacks on nearby cities throughout 2016, linking up with ISIS and recruiting Muslim herdsmen to carry out its butchery.
"I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35 p.m. on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide," Buhari wrote in his Christmas Eve statement. "I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice."
He went on to commend the Nigerian Army and the Armed Forces in helping to secure this victory.
"Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity," he urged. "May God be with them."
Boko Haram kidnapped about 300 Chibok school girls in April 2014, many who were enslaved, tortured or made sex slaves. About 100 girls have since escaped or been freed; the rest are assumed to still remain in captivity, although some freed school girls report that some had died.
Twenty-one of the most recently freed school girls went home to celebrate their first Christmas with their families in almost three years.
"I did not know that a day like this will come, that we will be dancing and giving thanks to God among people," said Glory Dama, one of the abducted girls. "For one month and 10 days we stayed without food. I narrowly escaped a bomb blast in the forest."
In spite of Buhari's announcement, the Associated Press reports there are signs that insurgents are regrouping in Taraba and Bauchi states.
Since Boko Haram's uprising in 2009, the Islamic group has killed about 20,000 people and driven 2.3 million from their homes. The United Nations recently addressed the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, saying as many as "14 million people [are] in need of humanitarian assistance" and millions of children are in danger of starvation.
President Muhammadu Buhari's full address follows:
I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.
I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at “Camp Zero”, which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa Forest.
I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35pm on Friday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide. I urge you to maintain the tempo by pursuing them and bringing them to justice.
I, therefore, call on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that will expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.
Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity. May God be with them.
I also want to congratulate and commend the able leadership of the Nigerian Army in particular and indeed, that of the Armed Forces in general, for making this possible. This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation not only in the North East, but the country in general. But we must not let our guards down.
Once more, congratulations to our troops and all who, in one way or the other, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort. May the Almighty continue to be with you.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a most rewarding and peaceful Year 2017 ahead.