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Boko Haram falls victim to a crisis it created

Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group terrorising this part of the world, is on the hunt — for food.

After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than 2 million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation.

Short of food

Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Harm to dominate — and little for the group to plunder.

“They need food. They need to eat,” Midjiyawa Bakari, the Governor of the Far North region of Cameroon, said of Boko Haram. “They’re stealing everything.”

Across parts of northeastern Nigeria and border regions like the Far North, trade has come to a halt and tens of thousands of people are on the brink of famine, UN officials say. Markets have shut down because vendors have nothing to sell, and even if they did, many buyers have been scared off by the suicide bombers Boko Haram sends into crowds.

The hunt for food appears to be part of what is pushing Boko Haram deeper into Cameroon, according to a U.S. State Department review of attacks in the first few weeks of this year.

“They started shooting, shooting, shooting,” said Matte Bama, recounting the night Boko Haram raided her town, Amchide. Now she shares a house with 23 others, wondering when she can return home. “They took our livestock,” she said. “They took everything and they left.”

Such attacks are becoming increasingly common in the areas bordering Boko Haram’s base in northeastern Nigeria. A military campaign by Nigeria and its neighbours has chased fighters from villages they once controlled. Now, officials contend, the militants are left to scrounge for food in the sparse Sambisa Forest during the dry season, or go out raiding for whatever they can find.

“Their supply routes are blocked,” said Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, a Nigerian military spokesman. “They’re hungry.”

This week, dozens of emaciated Boko Haram fighters, along with captive women and children, surrendered to military officials in Nigeria, a situation the authorities expect to repeat itself in coming weeks.

“They have nowhere to go,” Brig. Gen. Abubakar said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/boko-haram-falls-victim-to-a-crisis-it-created/article8319012.ece

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