Boko Haram seizes five Nigerian towns in five days

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The fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has seized five North-Eastern towns in five days killing hundreds and leaving thousands of residents fleeing for safety as it continues its quest to establish a caliphate in the country.

The towns captured within the last few days included Bara, Banki and Gulak in Borno State while Madagali and Bama were seized in Adamawa State.

Bama was seized by the rampaging terrorist group on September 1 and Banki overran the next day. By September 3, Bara, another town in the North-East was captured by the invading Islamist militants. Gulak and Madagali fell to the militants on Saturday.

Data from different population websites show that the five towns have a combined population figure of 170, 743 (Bama -118,121; Madagali -12,919; Bara -11,673; Banki -4,935; Gulaki -23,095).

Earlier in July, the sect had displaced thousands of people after it seized six other towns in Borno and Yobe states. The towns included Dikwa -29,026; Buni Yadi -4,768; Gamboru Ngala -240,000; Gwoza -15,176; Damboa -233,200 and Marte -15,707 with a total population of 537,877.

The Secretary to the Government of Adamawa state, Prof. Liman Tukur, on Saturday confirmed the capitulation of Gulak and Madagali.

During the attacks, the sect reportedly burnt down the residence of a former Special Adviser to the President on Politics, Dr. Ahmed Gulak in Gula.

A source also said on Saturday that the rampaging insurgents razed the residence of the acting Governor of Adamawa State, Adamu Fintiri in the town. Both Gulak and Fintirin are indigenes of Gulak community.

Reports from Michika, headquarters of Michika Council which borders Madagali local government area, showed that residents of some villages were fleeing to Uba, Mubi and Yola towns out of fear of possible attacks.

Tukur in a statement said the insurgents killed and displaced many people in the towns during their attacks.

He said, “It has come to the attention of the Adamawa State Government that insurgents are now in Gulak, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area and had killed and displaced scores of people.

“On behalf of the people and government of Adamawa, we deeply sympathise with the people of Gulak and other surrounding villages and towns whose areas have been overran by insurgents.

“The concomitant effects of the insurgency like displacement of whole villages and towns create multitudes of internally displaced persons whose management and welfare, the government is left to bear.”

Our correspondent could not get the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen Chris Olukolade, to comment on the new developments in Adamawa as calls to his mobile telephone did not connect.

Also, Olukolade had not responded to a text message on the issue as of the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, the heavy bombardment of Bama, Borno State’s second largest city, by the Nigeria Air Force entered its third day on Saturday.

SUNDAY PUNCH learnt over the weekend that NAF fighter jets and bombers rained bombs on the city and Gwoza, another city held by the insurgents, in a bid to flush them out.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosun, had reportedly moved to Borno to supervise the ongoing aerial bombardment of the two towns.

A senior military source, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the Air Force had deployed ATR 42 aircraft, Alpha jets, Mi35 helicopters and F7 jets in the troubled region.

The military, the source said, is using the ATR 42 aircraft for visual surveillance.

Even as the bombs rained on these two cities, the military might be preparing to launch an onslaught against the insurgents in the two cities. It was further gathered on Friday night that the Army was moving equipment and personnel to Bama to battle the insurgents.

An indigene of Maiduguri, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw movement of military hardware and personnel on the road leading to one of the seized cities. He said, he saw Hillux vehicles in military colours, machine guns mounted on trucks and other military equipment on the Maiduguri-Bama Road.

Efforts by SUNDAY PUNCH to get the comments of the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, on the military operation did not succeed as calls to his mobile telephone did not connect.

Also, Olukolade had not responded to a text message on the issue as of the time of filing this report.

However on Friday, the Defence Headquarters had issued a statement to reassure Nigerians that the insurgents would be flushed out of Bama and Gwoza.

The statement says, “Everything will be done to reverse the situation and defeat the rampaging terrorists.

“It is necessary to reassure all that the Nigerian Armed Forces is more than ever determined and committed to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, regardless of any odds. It is not only the pride and reputation of the military that is at stake but that of the entire nation.”

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency has moved more of its officers from its headquarters in Abuja to Maiduguri.

The relocation of the officers to Maiduguri followed the displacement of thousands of residents of Gwoza and Bama following attacks on the towns by Boko Haram.

Thousands of residents, who fled Bama, are currently being quartered at Mai Mutari Day Secondary School and Mai Mutari Primary School near the Bama Park, Maiduguri.

Many of them were reported to have arrived with no food and few clothes.

One of our correspondents gathered that senior officers of the agency were directed to relocate to Borno to help the internally displaced persons in the state.

A senior official with the agency who pleaded not to be named due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said, “Hundreds of residents of Bama were displaced and most of them fled to Maiduguri, but their situation is under control because we have been on the alert since the insurgency started.”

When contacted, Senior Information Officer, NEMA, Mr. Datti Sani, told one of our correspondents that he did not know the actual number of displaced persons in the state but maintained that the agency was in Maiduguri.

He said, “Although I cannot give you the latest update as to what was done in Bama today, I can assure you that we have been on ground since the insurgency started and we have ensured that we take care of those that are displaced.”

In a related development, youth groups in Borno State have scored the Federal Government low in its war against terrorist activities in the North-East.

Leaders of the groups, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH in separate interviews on Friday, said they decided to take up arms, when activities of the Boko Haram sect intensified despite military presence and the state of emergency declared in the area.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, the President, Kibaku Youth Association of Nigeria (a community in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State), Mr. Moses Zakwa, said it was true that Boko Haram was gaining “an upper hand in the war”.

Zakwa said, “We are fully in support of the action of the youths in Maiduguri. The people of the state have lost confidence in the military, especially with the recent happenings. And as the citizens of the area, it would be better for us to stand up and defend our land.

“That is what is going on there now. As we know, most of the major towns have been captured by Boko Haram and we believe that they are planning more attacks on more locations that we consider to be safe. That is why the youths are ready and prepared to go after them and to defend the area.”

The youths’ leader called on the Federal Government to “wake up,” while security agents should be motivated and equipped.

Also, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Pan Chibok Youths Association, Dr. Allen Manasseh, said youths had been consulting with leaders in the state on how to take on the sect.

“The plan was for them to go to Bama through Gwoza, and then to Sambisa Forest,” he said.

Manasseh added that those in government had not been fighting the insurgency with sincerity.

He said, “There is no single person that is telling the truth. Everybody is lying. Everybody should join hands to fight Boko Haram, not somebody blaming another person.

“I can affirm that the sect is taking over because of the mass exodus of people from that place. People are always afraid because anytime the sect notifies them of an impending attack, it usually actualises it.”

Over 10,000 youths had on Thursday thronged the streets of Maiduguri, the state capital, protesting against the increasing spate of attacks in the state by the sect.

The youths, who first assembled at the popularly Ramat Square Ground, later moved to the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar el-Kanemi, saying they were willing to confront the terror group if given the go ahead.

Copyright – Global Runs 2014

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