From Umar Dankano, Yola
Following the on-going military operations to recapture Gwoza town, in Borno state, from the captivity of members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect for nearly four days now, at least over 10,000 displaced residents have fled to Cameroun Republic and neighbouring Adamawa state, with many still trapped on hilltops and lacking food or water, emergency and local officials have confirmed.
North-East zonal coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA), Malam Mohammad Kanar, in a telephone interview with journalists, said that many people in their thousands are displaced by the attack of suspected insurgents.
“I can confirm to you that over 10,000 displaced Gwoza residents have fled to neighbouring Adamawa and Cameroun Republic.
‘’As I am talking to you now, hundreds are on their way to Madagali in Adamawa state and some parts of Cameroun. We are now working assiduously, in conjunction with the neighboring state, to assist the fleeing residents.
‘’Some parts of Gwoza, especially behind the rocky mountain that borders Cameroon, had been taken over by Boko Haram, who sacked the residents and hoisted their flag’’, Kanar said.
Also confirming the situation, chairman of Madagali local government area in Adamawa state, Mr. James Abawu Watharda has said that “Gwoza residents have continued trooping and for now, over 7,000 have since arrived. The local council is making arrangement to come to their plight.
“We are therefore calling on NEMA and other relevant authorities to assist, because the scope of their needs is beyond local government council,’’ Watharda appealed.
Also, in a telephone interview, a fleeing resident, Ahmad Musa, who claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the residents by the Boko Haram, said the terrorists killed both adults and children, by either slaughtering or shooting them.
Musa said that the Chief Imam of Gwoza was attacked in his house and slaughtered right before his family members, who later took to their heels.
The insurgents were also said to have slit the throat of a serving councillor, Hon. Saleh, of Kuranabasa ward as well as his three children.
Another young man, names withheld, who managed to escape Gwoza through Adamawa state, said soldiers and fleeing residents that are still trapped on top of Gwoza hills have no access to food or water, adding that he saw many corpses littering the streets of the town as he fled.
Meanwhile, local and security sources have confirmed that some units of the Nigerian Army 213 Battalion, Operation Task Force Mike and 234 Battalion, based in Mubi, Adamawa state, which attempted to retake Gwoza township from the insurgents, beat a hasty retreat after a fierce gun battle.
‘’The soldiers were reported to have been led into the battle by Lieutenant Bayedi Martins and Lt. Colonel Agu, of the 234 Battalion, formerly Special Operations Battalion (SOB), but they were given the surprise of their lives when they ran into stiff resistance from the militants as they advanced on Gwoza from the Madagali,’’ said security source, who pleaded anonymity, at the weekend.
‘’The soldiers retreated, but the militants followed them in hot pursuit, chased them and snatched one of their tanks as well as the driver of the tank. They then called the soldier’s wife and informed her that her husband was in captivity,’’ said a top security brass in Yola, the Adamawa state capital.
Local sources in Madagali said that, following the encounter, some 30 Hilux pick-up vans were used to bring back several wounded and dead soldiers to Mubi in Adamawa state.
The Army had recently retaken Damboa, two weeks after Boko Haram overran the town and hoisted its flag.
Army sources in Abuja said that following the attack, they are yet to find Lt. Col Agu. They further said that about three military Alpha jets have been deployed to the area to assist in the rescue of soldiers, who might be trapped in mountains surrounding Gwoza.
However, all efforts to get the reaction of the Army spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, proved abortive, as his phones were switched – off.