ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria's military claims it has destroyed the headquarters of Boko Haram in Gwoza, a town in northeast Nigeria. It was not possible to verify Friday's victory that comes the day before critical presidential elections.
The official Twitter account of the Nigerian Defense Headquarters announced "FLASH: Troops this morning captured Gwoza destroying the Headquarters of the Terrorists self-styled Caliphate."
It followed with "Several terrorists died while many are captured. Mopping up of entire (hash)Gwoza and her suburbs is ongoing."
There was no mention of the Sambisa Forest, where Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremist group is believed to have several camps. Warplanes have been bombarding the area for weeks. The forest starts about 20 miles from Gwoza town, which is 80 miles southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and birthplace of Boko Haram.
Sambisa Forest is where extremists first took nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok almost a year ago. Dozens escaped on their own but 219 remain missing.
The failure of the government and military of President Goodluck Jonathan to rescue the girls created international outrage and continues to dog Nigeria's leader as he stands for re-election.
Nigeria's military, with support of troops and military aircraft from neighboring countries, in the past two months has retaken dozens of towns from Boko Haram. This comes after months of defeat at the hands of Boko Haram, with soldiers fleeing the battlefield after they ran out of ammunition.
Jonathan's opponents have said the offensive is a political ploy, asking why Nigeria's military, of which Jonathan is the commander in chief, suddenly is capable of doing what it has failed to do for nearly six years.
Analysts attribute the success to newly acquired war materiel including tanks, armored cars and helicopter gunships, training by foreign instructors and a joint offensive with battle-hardened soldiers from neighboring Chad, as well as troops from Niger and Cameroon.
A regional offensive against Boko Haram was mounted at the end of January amid growing international concern as Boko Haram seized territory the size of Belgium, pledged to become the West Africa franchise of the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq, and as the Nigerian insurgents spread their attacks across borders.
At least 10,000 people were killed in the Islamic uprising last year and more than 1.5 million people have been driven from the homes.