Monday, December 8, 2014 12:11 pm
The call by leading Muslim leaders on the people to gird their loins against Boko Haram militants amounts to pronouncing death sentence on the insurgent group even as the manner of recent attacks by the sect disproves some popular assumptions about it
If information put in the public domain by members of the vigilance group who have been supporting the military in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents last Wednesday is to be believed, there may not be much merriment in this year’s Christmas celebrations for people living in Borno State and its environs. On the back of gruesome attacks in Kano and Yobe states, in which the insurgents killed over 200 Nigerians, the vigilance group, popularly known as Civilian Joint Task Force, JTF, revealed last Monday that the militant group had perfected strategies to take the death toll an all-time high of 100,000 in the few days remaining for 2014 to end, with the use of 50 female suicide bombers. The Civilian JTF attributed the information to a female suicide bomber its members arrested at the at the entrance gate of the University of Maiduguri, while another was apprehended at the busy Post Office area of the metropolis last Wednesday.
This magazine gathered last Wednesday that the news about the female suicide bombers primed to unleash death had further put the already bomb- and death-weary inhabitants of the city on edge as at last Tuesday. Desperate times deserves desperate measures, hence University of Maiduguri authorities, on receiving the information immediately banned students from entering the campus with their vehicles while it intensified the already rigorous checks on anybody wanting to gain access to the campus. The information from the Civilian JTF is not one that can be dismissed with a wave of the hand given the fact that two female suicide bombers had a day before the arrests at Maiduguri University gate blown themselves up in the heat of trading at a market in Maiduguri, killing 22 civilians and injuring about 50 others.
Scores of people hd also been killed by the insurgents through the use of female suicide bombers at the same market about a week earlier. And in what seemed a confirmation of the vigilance group’s waarning, another teenage female suicide bomber was caught heading towards the Maiduguri market last Wednesday. Reports indicated that the young girl was stopped at one of the numerous road blocks mounted by members of the vigilance group in the city.
A search which led to the girl being asked to lift her hijab revealed explosives strapped to her abdomen, the AP reported, quoting Muhammed Abbas, an official of the group. Also, last Wednesday, Nigeria destroyed a vehicle laden with improvised explosive devices,IED, in Konduga, a town barely 30 kilometres to Maiduguri, during which a number of militants of the insurgent group were also killed. It was believed that the rigged vehicle was meant for suicide bombing by the terrorists in Maiduguri. Thus, as people across the country get ready to revel in the merriment of the Yuletide, the people of Maiduguri will certainly be preoccupied with coming up with various ways to survive the bloody schemes of suicide bombers. But their neighbours in Damaturu, Yobe State, were as at the time of writing this story last week still counting their losses from the carnage of one of the most audacious attacks carried out by Boko Haram in the city in recent times.
In a move, certainly targeted at making Damaturu part of the Nigerian territories they have declared as their Caliphate, the insurgents launched one of their most brazen attacks targeting the Yobe State Government House, military formations, the Mobile Police Barracks and other buildings occupied by government agencies last Monday morning. Military sources said the plan of the insurgents was to take over the military and security facilities in the town. It was gathered that the insurgents had arrived in hundreds in the Yobe State capital as early as 4.00am from Gujba, a village less than 60 kilometres south of Damaturu, and started shooting sporadically as soon as they entered the city, thus forcing many residents to abandon their houses to hide in bushes. They insurgents then proceeded to sack the Mobile Police Barracks, which they later set ablaze after overcoming resistance by policemen, just as they also succeeded in burning down the administrative block of the Yobe State University and that of the state radio corporation. Reports indicated last week that vehicles belonging to the military and the vigilance group were burnt at the gate of the university.
The insurgents then moved towards the Yobe State Government House and the military had to deploy jets to halt their advance, while troops later engaged the militants in the city. Under fire from the military, this magazine gathered last week, the militants were forced to abandon scores of their vehicles engraved with Arabic inscriptions in various parts of the town. While 10 of the Hilux vans used by the insurgents to carry out the attack were bombed by military jets, it was learnt that the militants were able to snatch cars from the state INEC and the university premises to flee Damaturu. Ibrahim Gaidam, the governor of Yobe State, in a statement issued few hours after the end of the siege on his state capital, acknowledged the fact that but for the gallantry displayed by the military, the insurgents would have taken control of Damaturu. The governor condemned the attack as heinous and barbaric. He also expressed appreciation to the security forces who worked very hard on the ground and from the air to repel the attack and force many of the attackers to flee.
“As a result of their efforts, Damaturu remains firmly under government control,” the governor, who was away in Abuja at the time of the attack, said in a statement signed by Abdullahi Bego, his spokesman. The soldiers were not just able drive the insurgents away from the city, they also inflicted heavy casualty on them to the delight of inhabitants of Damaturu. Hundreds of the insurgents were said to have been killed while vigilance groups were collaborating with the military to search for members of the sect still hiding in the town late last week. But the casualty among civilians and security operatives is also high, with police and hospital sources putting the number of lives lost to the dawn invasion between 150 and 220. People living in places such as Gujba road, New Jerusalem, GRA and Nasarawa, among others, reported that their streets were littered with dead bodies after the insurgents were successfully routed. It was also learnt that the surviving militants were able to load some of the corpses of their dead colleagues into four Hilux vans and took them away while fleeing. An official of one of the emergency agencies last Wednesday put the number of lives lost to the attack at 150 people, including 38 policemen.
An official of one of the major health facilities in the town, the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital, also told journalists that 115 bodies were brought to the hospital’s morgue after the attack. He however could not confirm how many of the dead were members of insurgent group or civilians. It was gathered that while six soldiers were killed during confrontation with the insurgents. Emmanuel Ojukwu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and spokesman for the Nigeria Police, told journalists last week that 38 policemen were killed during the attack. He added that most of the policemen were killed at the mobile police base in Gujba road area of the city. It was learnt that Nansel Chagwang, the spokesperson for the Yobe police command, was among the officers killed. Also lost to the carnage were Arab Umar, the registrar of Yobe State Polytechnic and his two sons; as well as Dr. Hassan Lawan and Dr. Mansur Baballe, who were staff of Sani Abacha Special Hospital.