Members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, who seized Bama town, the administrative headquarters of Bama local government area of Borno state, four months ago, may have withdrawn from the area .
Bama which is about 75 kilometers drive from Maiduguri, the state capital, is the largest town captured by the Boko Haram fighters, after several failed attempts.
Our correspondent gathered that hundreds of insurgents, armed with sophisticated weapons and armored vehicles, stormed the town, early September last year. They reportedly chased away federal troops deployed for the counter-insurgency operation and killed several residents.
Since then the entire area has been under the control of the insurgents, even as they had been carrying out jungle justice on residents who were unable to flee into Maiduguri, under the guise of implementing Shariah law.
However, security sources told our correspondent that all the militants, holding the area, withdrew to unknown destination.
Fleeing residents, comprising of women, children and the elderly, arrived Maiduguri in the afternoon, after trekking through bush for several hours. They were divided into several groups by members of the youth vigilante and taken to various camps of the Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs).
A resident who came alongside two wives and six children, but declined identification, disclosed that before withdrawing, as early as 6am on Monday, the insurgents removed all of their flags they had earlier hoisted on the palace of the emir of the area and other public buildings.
“When they took over the town in September last year, the gunmen hoisted their flags on the entrance of the emir palace, the military barracks police station, local government secretariat, courts, schools and other public buildings.
But suddenly, after performing early morning prayers, we were all amazed to see them removing all the flags, taking away foodstuff and other properties they left looted from shops and houses, before loading them on pick-up vans. So it was after they that we started fleeing towards Maiduguri”, he said.
The resident further added: “Before they left, the insurgents gathered young people and shot some while they slit the throats of others. They also warned other residents of the consequences of disobeying their orders or cooperating with security personnel to leak their secret”.
Similarly, security sources hinted that the insurgent withdrew from the town for fear of imminent intense military offensive after their colleagues, who attempted to invade Maiduguri last Sunday, had suffered a heavy defeat in the hands of Nigerian soldiers.
The sources added that, the insurgents might have equally fled from the area and moved towards Monguno axis to join their colleagues who were facing heavy bombardment from aerial and ground forces.
Meanwhile unconfirmed sources revealed the military might have pushed the militants out of the Monguno military barrack and the entire area which they seized last Sunday.
Military jets, combat helicopters and dozens of armored vehicles were seen heading towards the area.
A credible source told our correspondent that hundreds of Boko Haram fighters were killed in the encounter, which was still going on as at press time.