GWOZA, Nigeria — In the sprawling city that was Boko Haram’s headquarters, almost every building has been bombed or burned or looted.
Schools and homes are littered with abandoned explosives and weapons. A ditch is full of decomposing bodies, the hands of the victims tied behind their backs.
As Boko Haram is forced out of its strongholds in a multinational military operation, the scale of its brutality is being revealed. Now, the government will face the dual challenges of keeping the insurgents at bay while rebuilding entire cities. More than 1 million displaced Nigerians are waiting in makeshift camps and caves to see whether their country is up to the task.
In the years after Boko Haram emerged as a small band of militant Islamists, the group was able to slaughter and rape with impunity across northeastern Nigeria. It seized a constellation of cities and carried out targeted attacks in others.
Eight months ago, Gwoza became the command center for that rampage — the capital of the group’s self-
proclaimed caliphate. The insurgents were driven out of the city in late March. Last week, the army took a few Nigerian and Western journalists to see what was left of the city — its horrors hidden from the world until now.