Since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, barely one week ago, specifically May 29, 2015, Borno State, particularly Maiduguri, the state capital, has witnessed sustained attacks by insurgents. Buhari had said at the inauguration that the nation’s military command was being moved to Borno, the hotbed of Boko Haram, to end the insurgency.
But barely 24 hours after the swearing-in of the new administration, Boko Haram launched the first invasion. The May 30 attack came at about 12:30am when residents were asleep. The insurgents reportedly drove in a convoy of vehicles and motorcycles laden with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), rocket grenades and anti-aircraft guns.
They entered Malari village, killed 15 residents and wounded 19 others in Bulunkutu Tsaleke, Gomari and Ajilari wards.
The killings, according to Ibrahim Yakubu of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), were caused by the insurgents’ sporadic gunshots, explosions and shelling on the wards that commenced from 12.35-2.45am that Saturday. “We were shocked about how these areas were targeted by Boko Haram last night. Among those killed were five children and two women sleeping in the open because of heat in their houses,” said Yakubu.
He said the insurgents, after entering Malari through the northeast flank of Sambisa forest on dirt road, crossed River Ngadabul to launch their attacks on the communities. “The militants could not enter Maiduguri metropolis because of the trenches we dug that made their vehicles to get stuck. But they wreaked havoc on lives and property in the affected communities”, said the vigilante youth.
“The extent of damage to lives and property could have been much higher if the Boko Haram gunmen had crossed the trenches”. Confirming the incident in Maiduguri, a source close to Borno Police Command said some residents of Gomari, Bulunkutu Tsaleke and Ajilari wards of Malari were killed in the attacks. “We are still collating the fatalities in the attacks, but 19 people have been hospitalized for injuries they sustained from gunshots and artillery fire that lasted over two hours in western part of Maiduguri metropolis,” said the source.
Later that Saturday, a suicide bomber sneaked into a mosque along Ali Kotoko Road, near Maiduguri Monday Market leaving 26 dead and 28 critically injured. A security source who assisted in the evacuation of victims said the incident took place at about 3:45pm when Muslim faithful gathered to perform their La,asar prayers.
“A bomb blast exploded at the Adam Kolo Central Mosque along Ali Kotoko Road of Maiduguri Monday Market (MMM) during an afternoon prayer, and killed 26 people with about 28 critically injured on Saturday”, said Mallam Abba Shukura who was among those evacuating the victims. “I can confirm to you that many people in the mosque were killed or injured.”
The mosque explosion, according to Modu Fugu of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), occurred when the prayer session was about to commence at about 3.25pm with dozens of people in the mosque. “We were terrified by the loud explosion that rocked the mosque near the bicycle sellers market and other shops. Worshippers fled to safety. But many were killed or injured,” Fugu stated.
Hamidu Isa, a shop owner near the mosque, told our correspondent that an IED had been hidden in a corner of the mosque in the morning before the suicide bomber came to detonate it at about 3.30pm”. Borno Police Command confirmed the mosque blast.
Boko Haram gunmen, same day, attacked Fika and Ngalda in Yobe State; and torched several public buildings, telecom masts, houses and shops, before fleeing into Sambisa Forest. The insurgents, according to a resident, Mainasara Ali, looted several shops and barns of grains. Fika and Ngalda are farming and herding communities, and 155 kilometres and 176 kilometres respectively southwest of Damaturu, the state capital.
“We were taken by surprise by the attacks on our houses and shops by the insurgents desperately looking for food to survive in the forest, but they did not kill any of our people. All our shops and barns were looted by the gunmen who also destroyed council offices and health centre, south of the central market,” said Ali. He said the insurgents chanted ‘God is great’ in Arabic before torching the public buildings in the towns.
According to him, most of the houses of local officials in Fika and Ngalda were also burnt that night. “We will continue to fight whosoever identifies with government which we consider anti-Islam. We will not relent or surrender until we impose Sharia Law in Nigeria”, Ali quoted one of the insurgents as saying.
Another resident, Ali Fika, said: “Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday evening attacked Ngalda in Fika Local Government Area and razed the council secretariat, High Court complex, before looting shops and barns of grains which they carted away in their tracks.
He said the insurgents, before embarking on the massive destruction, engaged soldiers at a military post. Our correspondent also learnt that several vehicles and motorcycles were set ablaze during the two-hour attack.
The Chairman of Fika Local Government Council, Alhaji Baba Abare, who confirmed the incident, said: “The militants came to the two towns shooting sporadically to scare people away so as to have ample opportunity for their looting”. He said they targeted shops and looted food items as well as beverages but no life was lost during the assault.
Yobe State police commissioner, Mr. Markus Danladi, who declined comment on the violence, said the Military Joint Task Force was the only body authorised to speak on the matter. Fika and Ngalda have repeatedly suffered Boko Haram assault since the commencement of the insurgency as the communities share common border with Gujba and Gulani Council Areas captured by the militant group and liberated few months ago.
The suspected Boko Haram insurgents in the post-Buhari inauguration era continued on Sunday, May 31 when an IED, planted at the Gambouru Market, Maiduguri, exploded, injuring four people. Eyewitnesses said one insurgent detonated the explosive, around 1.30 p.m at the peak of market hours. One of them said: “The bomb was buried in a heap of sacks at a spot where charcoal merchants have their stalls.
“The explosion did not kill any one but injured four persons. One of the victims had his arm completely ripped off by the blast. “An insurgent could have planted this explosive device last night, when curfew was relaxed to 10pm from 7pm to celebrate Democracy Day in Maiduguri. Also, we suspect that the suicide bomber that blew himself at the market mosque of Adam Kolo might have collaborated with the suspected bomber of Gambouru Market that injured four traders and other passersby”.
The eyewitness said as he was attending to customers in the afternoon, a loud explosion went off across the market,forcing people to run in various directions for safety. “The rescue team of Nigerian Red Cross and other volunteers evacuated the injured ones to the hospital for treatment,” he said. The military and police condoned off the market to prevent further attacks and looting.
In another development, Boko Haram militants on Tuesday, June 2 attacked Moronti, a village close to Maiduguri, and killed five people, before soldiers repelled them. The gunmen, according to Hamisu Abba, a resident, then crossed into the village through Ngadabul River. He noted that the militants could have overrun Maiduguri, if there were no trenches dug around the Nigerian Army 333 Artillery premises near the village.
Our correspondent learnt that as the repulsion of the militants continued into the night; some villagers fled to neighbouring Gomari and Ajillari for safety. “It was the trenches around the army barracks of Giwa and Maimalari and the 333 Artillery near the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) base that prevented the terrorists from wreaking havoc on Maiduguri metropolis,” said Kaumi Fugu, the village head of Moronti.
On how the village was attacked, he said: “Most of us were asleep around midnight when we started hearing gunshots and from Ajillari, near the river bank of Ngadabul. One of our neighbours lost two family members in his compound, while three others were killed about two kilometers from Ajillari.”
The village imam/ cleric, Mallam Yunus Mirgwi, told our reporter that the five slain villagers were buried Tuesday morning, according to Islamic rites. “By 1.45am, troops in patrol trucks moved in towards Moronti along the Maiduguri-Damturu Road, and commenced the repulsion of the insurgents by firing artillery shelling that lasted over an hour,” Mirgwi said..
He continued: “After the insurgents attacked the village, we saw troops in trucks moving towards Moronti and then a NAF fighter jet pursued the insurgents, and killed some of them”.
The deadliest attack yet since the inauguration came on June 2. That day, a suspected Boko Haram insurgent believed to be a suicide bomber and disguised as a herbalist/traditional medicine seller stormed the Maiduguri abattoir section of the cattle market (Kasuwan Shanu), killing over 30 people and injuring 28 others.
It was gathered that the suicide bomber came into the market with a mobile tape recorder playing President Buhari campaign songs which attracted many people. When he realized that the music had attracted dozens, he detonated the explosives he was carrying. The incident took place at about 12noon when the market was at its peak. The attack left shattered bodies of victims mixed with slaughtered animal’s meat/ flesh at the scene.
Although, officials of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) claimed 10 people died at the spot, they admitted some died later among the dozens who suffered various degrees of injury. Umar Sadiq, Communication Field Officer of the International Community of Red Cross (ICRC), in an interview, said, “So far, 13 identified dead bodies were evacuated from the scene while many others sustained serious injuries and burns in the blast”.
A source at Borno State Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri said over 30 bodies were brought there, even as he expressed the fear that most of those injured may not survive due to the seriousness of their injuries. “We have received six corpses at the emergency ward since those injured were brought in and I just learnt that another victim of the blast has given up and they are bringing the corpse as we speak.”
A police inspector who did not want his name in print told our correspondent to be careful because many suicide bombers were said to have arrived Maiduguri following the battle with troops on Monday night.
“ All security agencies in Maiduguri are on the red alert because these useless people according to signals we received have smuggled themselves into town with the intention of suicide bombing. On Monday (yesterday), about five suicide bombers were arrested at Tashan Baga and this one is another bad day for everybody. For your safety, be cautious while moving around because anything can happen. These bad eggs want to see where people gather so they can wreak more havoc,” he said.
Speaking with traders forced to abandon their sheds at the abattoir, our correspondent gathered that more than 70 people were hit by the explosion but they could not confirm the number of the dead. Aminu Sarki, a meat seller at the abattoir, said, “We just heard the loud sound of the explosion and everybody started running. We knew it was a bomb blast, but we could not wait to count the number of the dead, but it is unfortunate that many people were killed or injured in the blast.”
Borno State police commissioner, Mr. Aderemi Opadokun, ordered the condoning off of the abattoir. “The situation is under control, as the scene has been condoned off. Suspected suicide bomber at Kasuwan Shanu in Maiduguri at about 11:30hrs of 2/6/15 invaded the market shouting Sai Buhari in Hausa Language and dancing in the market where he detonated explosives (IEDs) strapped on his body when people had gathered around him.
“Four persons died including the suicide bomber in the explosion, while eight others sustained injury. Men were mobilized to the scene, corpses/injured persons were evacauted to the hospital, investigation in progress”.