NIGERIA’S military has banned the use of horses in the northeastern state of Borno to stop deadly raids by Boko Haram gunmen, a regional military spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.
Militants on horseback have in recent weeks attacked remote communities in the troubled region, as an extensive military offensive to rout the insurgents intensified.
“Military authorities have banned the use of horses in the entire Borno state to stave off Boko Haram terrorist attacks,” said the military spokesman for Borno, Colonel Tukur Gusau.
Horses are often used as a form of transport in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north but are also a sign of social status, including royalty.
The ban was imposed after talks with the state government and council of traditional chiefs, he added.
Gusau said the military surge in the region had thrown the Islamic State group-allied rebels into “disarray”, cutting off their supply lines, including for fuel.
“This has forced the terrorists to abandon their vehicles due to lack of fuel and resort to the use of horses in carrying out attacks in remote villages,” he added.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has made crushing the six-year insurgency his priority and in August gave his new military top brass three months to end the violence.
That prompted intensive ground and air offensives against Boko Haram positions.
Buhari, a former military ruler, had sacked the previous senior command team under whose watch the rebellion intensified, threatening Nigeria’s sovereignty and regional security.
Gusau said the state-wide ban on horse-riding will allow soldiers to “distinguish locals from terrorists”.
“We know that only the terrorists will flaunt this ban and our troops will take the appropriate action when they come across such terrorists in accordance with the rules of engagement?,” he added.
Malam Ba’Kura, a local chief in the recently liberated Dikwa district of northern Borno, confirmed the ban and said it had been endorsed by the state’s most influential chief and religious figure.
“The Shehu (of Borno) summoned and briefed all traditional chiefs under the Kanem Borno emirate on the ban on horses, ?which was decided to stop Boko Haram attacks on villages in northern Borno,” said Ba’Kura.
“We welcome this ban and we have spread the news to all our subjects who are also happy with it because it is aimed at ending the new wave of attacks by Boko Haram gunmen riding horses.”