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General
Boko Haram violence threatens Nigeria’s future, warns US
05-09-2014

KANO: The United States on Thursday said it was concerned by increasing Boko Haram violence and territorial gains in Nigeria, warning that the deteriorating situation threatened the African giant’s future.

Boko Haram, which has been waging a violent insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since 2009, has in recent weeks overrun and held swathes of territory in Nigeria's far northeast.

The militants on Monday reportedly took over Bama, 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, where 10,000 youths, former soldiers and police gathered on Thursday vowing to push back the advance.

Multiple testimonies from residents who have been fleeing Bama all week contradicted military claims that soldiers still held the town. “The truth is that Boko Haram fighters are in firm control of Bama,” said one resident, Muhammadu Mai Tumatur, who escaped to Maiduguri.

“They have occupied the military barracks and the palace of the emir and they have hoisted their flags in both places... There is not a single soldier in the town. The gunmen are in control.” US Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington was “very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects of an attack on Maiduguri.”

And in a thinly veiled reference to Abuja's insistence that Nigerian sovereignty remained intact, she added, “This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride.”

Maiduguri is home to an estimated one million people, but numbers have swollen as residents from elsewhere in Borno have flocked to the city to escape the bloodshed.

More than 700,000 had been internally displaced, with the violence battering an already fragile local economy, hitting food supplies and threatening to disenfranchise voters at next year's elections, Thomas-Greenfield said.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that at least 9,000 Nigerians had fled to Cameroon in the last 10 days alone. Nearly 10,000 escaped to Niger in August, it added on Thursday.