- As Bama’s fall imminent
- 59 insurgents killed
- Fighter jet bombs barracks
By Joy Baba, Abuja & Mustapha Isah Kwaru, Maiduguri
The dreaded Boko Haram insurgents yesterday made an incursion on the city of Bama, about 70 kilometers to Maiduguri, Borno state capital.
Although the soldiers initially repelled the insurgents with about 59 of the insurgents killed, there were fears that the city may soon fall to the Boko Haram fighting force as it was reported that about 500 soldiers abandoned the battle field and fled along with several hundreds of civilians into Maiduguri and Konduga.
It was also reported that the fighter jet deployed by the Army ended up bombing the military barracks making the city vulnerable to further attacks from the insurgents who were reported to have retreated as at the time of filing this report.
The insurgents had in the past overtaken Gwoza, Burni-Yadi and Gamboru-Ngala in the zone.
Residents of the area were yesterday woken in serious fear and uncertainty following horrifying sounds of endless explosions and gunshots.
It was gathered that over 200 militants stormed Bama with the intention of capturing it like Gwoza, which they recently declared an Islamic caliphate.
However, sources said the invaders met stiff resistance from the security forces, who repelled the onslaught, killing 59 on the spot, while over 30 were wounded.
It was further gathered that the insurgents were taken unawares, as they expected to have a field day like in other attacks they had launched in Damboa, Gwoza, Konduga and Gamboru-Ngala among others.
The incident, according to sources, started in the early hours of yesterday at about 5:30am, forcing hundreds to flee to Maiduguri and Konduga.
A competent source said, “the insurgents stormed the town through Bama-Banki-Gwoza road but were intercepted by gallant military troops near the Bama Mobile Police Unit located about five kilometers away from Bama town.
The Boko Haram insurgents were said to have tactically attempted to enter Bama town in convoy of military vehicles and motorcycles wearing military uniform armed with sophisticated weapons and locally Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
A resident of Bama, Malam mohammed Bunu Ahmed, told this reporter on phone from Bama that “yes there was an attempt by the Boko Haram people to enter Bama town or capture Bama as they did in Gwoza some weeks back. But thank God for the good efforts of the military troops stationed near the mobile police unit who repelled the attack in a joint effort with their colleagues from the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army. The troops have gallantly succeeded in repelling the attack killing over 59 insurgents and wounded over 30.”
He added “The situation actually scared many of our people and even forced some of them to run to Maiduguri town for safety while some, I learnt are in Konduga as others escaped into bush.”
Other fleeing residents, according to Mustapha Bunu, who led his family members of eight to Maiduguri, said: “We were lucky to have boarded this vehicle to Maiduguri this morning. There are residents still trooping to Maiduguri, Konduga and Kawuri village for safety. We could not continue with our sleep last night; as the “deafening” sounds of gunshots and bombings continued, till we fled this morning.”
A military source also said several attempts to seek deployment of fighter jet to their aid did not yield any result as they said they hadn’t got any deployment order from Abuja.
Several military men were seen trekking from Bama to Maiduguri at that early hours of the morning in search of medical attention at the Maimalari cantonment, the source said.
The source said also that despite seeing their wounded colleagues, soldiers manning the 212 Battalion allegedly denied the bleeding officers access to the health facility of the command until the intervention of the Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Lt Col AA Babalola.
Although there were no reports of civilian casualties, the Director of Defense Information, Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade in a text message said: “Yes, the attack on Bama is being repelled. I cannot state casualty situation or figures now.” He assured that everything necessary will be done to contain the terrorists.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed report revealed that another group of the insurgents were also sighted yesterday around Mafa local government area and Kayamula village Konduga town near Maiduguri metropolis.
Sources said the sighted Kayamula group were intercepted and killed by troops, while those around Mafa were suspected to be making frantic effort to enter the town.
However, there were reports that about 500 soldiers have fled the battle front in Bama after initially overwhelming Boko Haram militants who tried to take over the city.
As the battle drew into the evening yesterday, according to reports, about 500 soldiers initially drafted in to fight the insurgents fled to Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri with thousands of civilians fleeing the city.
Trouble started when an Air Force jet sent in to assist the ground troops bombed the Bama Barracks after civilians that had sought refuge there were sent away by soldiers who then abandoned their weapons and sought to flee with the civilians.
A few minutes later, the jet bombed the barracks, leading to casualties on the side of soldiers. There are indications that Bama has become vulnerable and may be taken by the militants, who are believed to have gone for reinforcements.
Some hours after the battle of Bama, the military also reviewed the 9pm-6am curfew in Maiduguri metropolis to 7pm-6am daily, until the security situation improves.
The review of curfew was contained in a press statement made available to newsmen by Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Col Sani Usman.
The Army spokesman in the statement said: “With effect from today (Monday), curfew hours imposed on Maiduguri metropolis and environs have been reviewed upwards. It is now to last from 7pm to 6am daily.
All must comply with this directive.”
Usman also warned: “Anyone found flouting this directive will be arrested and prosecuted,” adding that the Acting General Officer Commanding (AGOC) of 7 Division of Nigerian Army has assured the people of security of their lives and property in the state.