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Boko Haram Closes in on Its 'Mosul Moment'

Nigeria's Premium Times reported today that thousands of women and children are "dying of thirst and hunger" as Boko Haram tightens its grip on what's left of Bama, which the Nigerian government said had been liberated by its troops.

“From Monday to date, about 11 days now, Bama, the second largest Local Government Area in Borno, is under the custody and control of the dreaded Boko Haram sect; this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Mohammed Hassan, chairman of the Bama Development Association, told a press conference.

“After 11 days of the invasion and takeover of Bama, no search and rescue operation has been conducted; no damage assessment has been made, even though the security and welfare of citizens is the fundamental and constructional obligation of any meaningful government,”  Hassan said, adding that some women and children had drowned in a river while trying to flee "while others were shot dead."

Community leaders have been getting reports from Bama residents who fled, many on foot, and managed to make it to the capital.

The Nigeria Security Network, a collaboration of security experts and academics, issued a chilling report last week that warned of no less than the severing of Nigeria — with Borno state as Boko Haram’s new “country.”

"If Maiduguri falls, it will be a symbolic and strategic victory unparalleled so far in the conflict," the group warned.

The report marked July as the point when Boko Haram’s advancements entered “a dangerous new phase” — and the point when the terrorists began “to operate like a conventional army.”

While Boko Haram units outside of the northeast continue to stage “hit-and-run assaults” largely for “psychological effect,” in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states they are now “aggressively challenging the Nigerian military through direct confrontation in open and sustained battle,” including the reported use of tanks and artillery.

“If Borno falls to Boko Haram, parts of Yobe and Adamawa can be expected to follow. Parts of Cameroon along the border area would also probably be overrun. Unless swift action is taken, Nigeria could be facing a rapid takeover of a large area of its territory reminiscent of ISIS’s lightning advances in Iraq.”

The fall of Borno state would give Boko Haram’s regional partners and fellow al-Qaeda affiliates a new place to train, along with whatever foreign fighters want to come join the movement. U.S. Africa Command noted in summer 2012 that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was inviting Boko Haram and Somalia’s Al-Shabaab to train in an area the size of Texas controlled in northern Mali.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement today that “history has shown when America turns a blind eye to terrorism, the terrorists will seize the opportunity to try to blindside us."

"It is a lesson we learned painfully as a nation in 2001 and again in 2012," Gowdy said. “As we mark the anniversary of the two 9/11 terrorist attacks, and those who lost their lives, we are reminded of the real cost of terrorism and the importance of remaining vigilant. It should not take the rise of ISIS or Boko Haram or AQAP to force vigilance on the part of our nation and its leaders. And we should not have to relearn the lesson of vigilance every couple of years through the spilled blood of American citizens."