Reports from Borno state have indicated that suspected members of the Jam’atu Ahlis Sunna lid Da’awati wal Jihad, commonly referred to as Boko Haram, yesterday laid siege on the Banki-Gulumba-Dikwa road along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, visiting mayhem on travelers on that route.
Yesterday’s reports came barely 24 hours after the insurgents launched a major offensive on Bama town, the administrative headquarters of Bama local government area of the state, killing at least 37 people in the palace of the Shehu of the town, besides other residents.
These reports are coming on the heels of a claim by the leader of the dreaded sect, Abubakar Shekau, that his group was responsible for the killing, on February 2 this year, of renowned Zaria based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Muhammad Auwal Adam Albani.
Also, it was confirmed yesterday that the Boko Haram had Tuesday evening attacked the residence of Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Niger Delta, Major General Umar Tukur Buratai at Buratai
District in Biu local government area of Borno state, killing one soldier on guard duty, with others injured.
On the major offensive launched by the insurgents along the Banki-Gulumba-Dikwa axis, the driver of a commercial vehicle who said he narrowly escaped from the attackers, told the Hausa service of the BBC that the terrorists butchered unspecified number of travelers on that route and set their vehicles ablaze.
But security agents said they could not confirm this assault by the insurgents. However, the Police Commissioner in Borno state, Lawal Tanko, yesterday confirmed that attack on General Buratai’s residence though the senior military officer was not at his residence at the time of the assault.
“The soldiers succeeded in repelling the attacks on Buratai (about 215 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital) resulting in minimal damage,” he said, confirming that one soldier had been killed.
Tanko said there had been a separate attack on the town of Bama, but gave no details. The casualty figures recorded for civilians, security forces and the insurgents in the Bama attack were not immediately available up to press time, even as the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army also declined further comments.
However, it was learnt that the insurgents, who dressed in military uniforms went out in large numbers and armed with sophisticated weapons and explosives. They reportedly sneaked into the area in a convoy of several military-coloured vehicles and trucks.
Senator Khalifa Ahmed Zanna who represents the area in the Senate, confirmed the incident in a BBC Hausa report monitored from Maiduguri, saying the assailants invaded the area around 4.30am.
“Yes, it is true that my people called to inform me that our town was under attack, I think the incident occurred at about 4.30am. I was told that two persons who are known to me have so far lost their lives in the attacks which were targeted at two areas, namely New Bama, where I was born and the central market. So far I got the report of only two death, but several others might have also been killed”, he said.
Asked on the present situation in the area, the senator said: “Information reaching me from the area indicates that several houses, shops and other structures were burnt by the rampaging gunmen, while thousands of residents who escape the onslaught have abandoned their homes and fled into the surrounding bushes.
“It’s quite unfortunate that despite the presence of security forces the invaders had a field day; they operate till around 12pm before withdrawing on their own.
“I quite agree with Governor Shettima that the insurgents are well equipped and motivated than the federal troops. Boko Haram handle sophisticated weapons such as rocket launchers, explosives and anti-aircraft weapons”, the senator stressed.
But the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major General Chris Olukolade was reported by the BBC to have said that government troops had launched a counter offensive on the insurgents in Bama, killing an unspecified number of them.
On Sunday the Islamists killed 106 people in Igze village, in one of their deadliest assaults so far, according to official figures. That prompted the Borno state governor to say the rebels were better armed and motivated than government forces.
The military denied this and said it was making progress against the insurgents, but that no country facing terrorism had defeated it completely.
Meanwhile, leader of the Boko Haram, Shekau, purported to have died of gunshot wounds sustained in a May, 2013 attacks on the sect’s hideout by the military, yesterday issued a new video in which he claimed responsibility for the killing of Sheikh Albani.
Albani was murdered along with his wife and child when gunmen shot them dead as they drove home after his usual evening sermon at one of his Islamic schools in Zaria.
In the video, Shekau also warned that his group carry out attacks on top politicians who are in favour of and support democracy.
In the meantime, Governor Shettima yesterday returned to Aso Rock to meet President Goodluck Jonathan over the raging terrorist attacks in his state.
The governor said he was at the Presidential Villa to update the president on the latest attack on Bama.
After the meeting, Shettima told State House correspondents that he believed the soldiers were doing their best to tackle insecurity in his state.
“There was an attack on Bama. We are yet to get the actual number of casualties, but I am told they have inflicted a lot of damage on the town. Otherwise, the military are doing their best”, he said.
He, however, refused to comment on the Presidency’s reaction on his earlier comments that the insurgents were better armed than soldiers.
“I don’t want to comment on it. He is our president and I am here to update him on the goings-on in Bama and I don’t want to make additional comments”, Shettima said.