(Reuters) – Nuradin Mohammed used to resent and fear the troops who swept past his fish stall in this northeast Nigerian city on the trail of Islamist insurgents Boko Haram. Now, for the first time, he thinks they may be on his side.
“We are pleased the president has finally recognised our peril and we pray his plan works,” Mohammed said, frying fish by the roadside as a crowd of young children looked on hungrily and trucks packed with troops rumbled past.
President Goodluck Jonathan took a gamble when he launched a big offensive this month on Boko Haram’s four-year-old attempt to establish an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
The crackdown risks stoking, rather than quashing the rebellion, but has so far met with a surprising degree of support in a region that has long accused the oil-rich Christian south of neglect.