Up Close: Caliphate of Ashes

In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS and tried to establish a Caliphate. Photojournalist Benedicte Kurzen describes travelling with the Nigerian army as they retook the land held by insurgents.

  • Words + Photography: Bénédicte Kurzen

‘In the helicopter of the Nigerian Air Force, the hot air, the noise, the sun were overwhelming. But nothing could distract us from watching the ground. On this particular evening we were flying from Gwoza to Maiduguri. We went so low, it felt we could touch the leafless trees of this stark forest where Boko Haram was hiding. Would we see them? Would they have time to shoot at us?

Suddenly we saw a pick-up truck with men on top and anti-aircraft weaponry. But they had no time to take aim. As we flew on, the next scene we saw was these Fulani cows fleeing in panic because of the noise and the vibrations.ʼ

Bénédicte Kurzen is a French photographer and photojournalist based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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