Increasing numbers of Boko Haram attacks against troops have raised questions about the group’s current strength, capability and support, as Nigeria’s main opposition seized on mounting casualties to criticise the government’s record on security before next year’s election.
AFP has reported at least 17 attempts to overrun army bases since July, most of them in the remote northeast state of Borno, which has been the epicentre of the nine-year conflict.
A strike this weekend on a base in Metele village, near the border with Niger, killed at least 44, according to security sources, although unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since 2009 and some 1.8 million are still homeless, while aid agencies are battling the humanitarian fall-out of the fighting.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari made defeating the Islamist insurgents a key plan of his 2015 election campaign and has said the jihadists were “technically defeated”.