MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Suicide bombings, mass kidnappings, tens of thousands of people killed. A ghastly insurgency by the homegrown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram marks 10 years this week in northeastern Nigeria, where many residents say life has been set back by decades.
“It feels like 100 years, because everything seems to be moving slowly and not getting any better for me and my family,” said Hassan Mamman, who fled to Maiduguri, the region's main city, after Boko Haram attacks on his rural home. He is among millions of people displaced.
Friday marked a decade since Nigerian forces clashed with the extremists at Maiduguri's central mosque. More than 700 people were killed, including leader Mohammed Yusuf, according to officials and rights groups.
From that violence sprang the insurgency of Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means “Western education is taboo.” The extremists have sought to establish a strict Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, carrying out attacks as far away as the capital, Abuja. The violence has also spilled into neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. In recent years, some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, creating a new threat.
Boko Haram seized the world's attention with the mass kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, sparking a #BringBackOurGirls campaign supported by then-first lady Michelle Obama and others.
While many schoolgirls have since been freed, countless other people abducted over the decade remain lost to their loved ones. They include aid workers; on Wednesday a recently seized nurse pleaded in a video for Nigeria's government to help, saying they could be killed.
While Nigerian officials have repeatedly claimed victory over Boko Haram, weary residents say there is no end in sight to the attacks that have created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with more than 7 million people still dependent on food aid.
Some 1.9 million displaced people are waiting for the chance to go home, said Hilde Jorgensen with the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“Many of them are in camps that are overcrowded, without proper shelter or access to clean water,” she said.
Observers allege certain Nigerian officials are profiting from the unrest via corruption and have little interest in ending the bloodshed. Rights groups have accused some Nigerian security forces of abuses in the fight against Boko Haram including extra-judicial killings and mass arrests.