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29 Mar, 2024 12:33

Nigeria to free hundreds of Boko Haram terrorist suspects

A Borno State court has ordered their release for lack of evidence, a defense official has said
Nigeria to free hundreds of Boko Haram terrorist suspects

More than 300 people suspected of being involved in the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in Nigeria will be released after a federal court in the West African country concluded there was no evidence to prosecute them, a defense spokesperson announced on Thursday.

Major General Edward Buba told reporters in the capital, Abuja, that 313 detained suspects would be handed over to the northeastern Borno state government “during the week” for further action, as directed by the high court in Maiduguri city.

“The court ordered the release for want of evidence after the conclusion of the investigation and other ancillary matters,” Buba said, without specifying how long the suspects had been held.

The Boko Haram movement, known for the 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in the Borno region’s Chibok town, has carried out numerous major attacks since 2009, when it launched a rebellion in an attempt to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state. Cross-border raids by the militant group prompted the formation nearly a decade ago of the Multinational Joint Task Force, a military coalition comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin. According to the UN, insurgents have killed thousands of people in Nigeria alone, displacing more than 2 million others.

Africa’s most populous country has been implementing a variety of counterterrorism strategies, including an amnesty program for jihadists who willingly surrender. “Repentant terrorists” go through rehabilitation before being reintegrated into society. Last July, Nigeria’s army chief, Taoreed Lagbaja, reportedly criticized the amnesty scheme, claiming it has instead enabled criminals to reorganize to carry out more attacks in the troubled nation.

Nigerian Minister of Justice Lateef Fagbemi is quoted by local newspaper The Punch as saying last December that out of a total of 1,323 suspects accused of terrorism, only 366 sentences were secured due to a reported lack of evidence.

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