- Catholic News Agency - Saturday, September 13, 2014

Maiduguri, Nigeria - The militant Islamic group Boko Haram has surrounded Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, according to local leaders who charge that the national government is not doing enough to combat the group.

“The insurgents have rendered impassable almost all the roads leading to Maiduguri,” the Boko Elders Forum said. The forum also said that the insurgents intend to attack the city “from all directions,” the BBC reports.

The forum, which is made up of retired senior civilian and military leaders, called on the military to “urgently fortify the city.”

“We are convinced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not shown sufficient political will to fight Boko Haram and rescue us from the clutches of the insurgents which may ultimately lead to the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno,” the group warned.

The Nigerian military charged that the forum’s statement was “alarmist” and “clearly intended to cause panic in the city and in the nation,” Agence France Presse reports.

The military said the city’s defenses have been “upgraded to handle any planned attack.”

Maiduguri already hosts tens of thousands of refugees who have fled Boko Haram attacks elsewhere. The region’s mobile telephone network is down in many places, hindering communications.

In recent years, Boko Haram – whose name means “Western Education Is Sinful” – has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and other Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.

Boko Haram has killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone. The U.N. estimates their attacks have created more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, in addition to some 57,000 refugees outside of the country.

The terrorist group notoriously abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in an April raid; only a few dozen have escaped to return to their families.

The Borno Elders Forum warned that the conflict has stopped many farmers from planting, which could threaten food supplies.

In neighboring Adamawa state, the Nigerian military has launched an assault to recapture Michika, a city of 700,000 residents that is an important gateway to the state’s commercial hub of Mubi.

Boko Haram reportedly declared a caliphate, an Islamic state, in the captured city of Gwoza in August.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the northern Nigerian city of Jos told CNA that many “serious-minded Muslims” have condemned Boko Haram’s actions as contrary to Islam.

“It is important to note that the majority of Muslims and Christians are united in their desire to see the end of the Boko Haram menace,” he said.

The archbishop said that Boko Haram’s actions “defy logic and are insensitive to humanity.”

“That they are determined to kill and destroy in the name of their ‘God’ contradicts the whole essence of religion,” he said

Archbishop Kaigama called for a “sincere willingness” from the international community to “cripple” the operations of groups like Boko Haram.

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