Boko Haram’s deadly resur­gence

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Olatunji Omirin, Maiduguri

In the past few months, the on­go­ing war against Boko Haram ap­pears to have changed tempo, with Nige­rian troops suf­fer­ing a num­ber of losses - of lives of per­son­nel - as well as equip­ment. Co­or­di­nated at­tacks on com­mu­ni­ties and mil­i­tary for­ma­tions by the in­sur­gents are on the rise, with the most re­cent, deadly one at Metele vil­lage, in Guza­mala LGA of Borno State.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, in­sur­gents over­ran the 157 Task Force Bat­tal­ion in Metele dur­ing an evening at­tack last Mon­day, Novem­ber 19, and killed many sol­diers and some of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing the unit’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sak­aba. They also carted away arms, am­mu­ni­tion, and mil­i­tary equip­ment.

Boko Haram soon re­leased a video, which was seen by Daily Trust Sat­ur­day, and widely avail­able on­line, in which they were shown killing ap­par­ently un­armed sol­diers in cold blood. In the video, an in­ca­pac­i­tated sol­dier was also shown be­ing hoisted onto a ve­hi­cle be­long­ing to the in­sur­gents. His fate af­ter­wards, how­ever, re­mains un­clear.

A sol­dier who sur­vived the at­tack, said their lo­ca­tion was in­vaded af­ter Boko Haram is­sued a threat let­ter last Fri­day.

An­other sol­dier, who re­quested anonymity, said the at­tack did not last more than 45 min­utes, as troops suf­fered due to lack of ad­e­quate weapons. He nar­rated that when they re­alised things were look­ing bleak, they de­cided to re­treat. “But it was too late, and we were sur­rounded. Many of us were gunned down. Those lucky enough to es­cape walked to Monguno, where they boarded com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles Maiduguri,” he said.

The sol­dier also said at­tempts to evac­u­ate fallen sol­diers were thwarted by ter­ror­ists, and that troops are fac­ing a ma­jor chal­lenge, of in­ad­e­quate am­mu­ni­tion and mo­ti­va­tion to prop­erly de­feat the in­sur­gents. “We find it shock­ing how the me­dia seems to be un­aware that we are suf­fer­ing here, by no fault of ours. We can fin­ish this fight, but first you have to equip us prop­erly. I know some peo­ple will scoff at this, but it is the truth: We’re still suf­fer­ing.”

When Daily Trust Sat­ur­day called Direc­tor Army Pub­lic Re­la­tions, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, he de­clined com­ment.

On Thurs­day, 23 Novem­ber, the Se­nate ad­journed its ple­nary in hon­our of the 44 sol­diers who lost their lives in the at­tack. The ple­nary was ad­journed till Tues­day, Novem­ber 27, 2018. Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki said: “We must pay our re­spect to these brave men that have sac­ri­ficed and paid the ul­ti­mate price for our own safety and peace in our coun­try.”

Sen­a­tor Bala Na’al­lah noted that his cousin was one of the fallen, and cit­ing Or­der 42 and 52, he urged the Se­nate to take judicial no­tice of the in­ci­dent. The law­mak­ers ob­served a one-minute si­lence, and also agreed that the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Army will pay con­do­lence vis­its to the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased sol­diers, and the Chief of Army Staff.

Troops had in the re­cent past made some re­mark­able progress against the in­sur­gents, see­ing to dis­placed per­sons from Guza­mala LGA re­turn­ing to their homes. Two weeks later, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Bu­ratai vis­ited Gudum­bali, the head­quar­ters of Guza­mala, and flagged off farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, re­as­sur­ing re­turnees of safety.

Weeks af­ter that, Boko Haram at­tacks num­ber­ing more than 20 have oc­curred around a va­ri­ety of lo­ca­tions, with vary­ing de­grees of dead­li­ness. A tally shows that they have killed over a hun­dred sol­diers in the past three months. How­ever, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say that fig­ure is in­ac­cu­rate, and much higher than the ac­tual toll.

Some­time in Au­gust, there were re­ports that in­sur­gents at­tacked a mil­i­tary base in Zari, si­t­u­ated be­tween Damask and Gudum­bali towns. It was re­ported that many sol­diers were killed, and dozens miss­ing, but the au­thor­i­ties dis­puted the fig­ures, say­ing while there was an at­tack, it was re­pelled by airstrikes.

Brig. Gen. Chukwu said then in a state­ment that com­bined troops of 82 Di­vi­sion Task Force Bridge and 158 Task Force Bat­tal­ion in­volved in the counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions had an en­counter with in­sur­gents in Gudum­bali. “How­ever, no hu­man ca­su­alty was recorded in the en­counter. The troops have re­grouped and nor­malcy has been re­stored.”

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Lt. Gen. Bu­ratai vis­ited Gudum­bali, and there he said: “Some­times when you set goals, you must have chal­lenges. But most im­por­tantly, those chal­lenges had been ad­dressed. We will not al­low such re­oc­cur­rences.”

But af­ter Bu­ratai’s re­as­sur­ance, Boko Haram didn’t stop, but con­tin­ued at­tacks on mil­i­tary for­ma­tions, like one on the fringes of Lake Chad Basin, where at least 5 at­tacks were recorded in re­cent times.

Babakura Modu, in Kukawa LGA, said: “We salute the ef­forts of the mil­i­tary in restor­ing peace, both here and in Borno gen­er­ally. We never be­lieved it would be pos­si­ble for us to re-en­gage farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. How­ever, re­cent at­tacks have us ex­tremely con­cerned.”

Many res­i­dents of Maiduguri metropo­lis spo­ken to by Daily

Trust Sat­ur­day ex­pressed shock and sur­prise that in­sur­gents could still have the ca­pa­bil­ity to storm as close 4 kilo­me­tres away from Maiduguri, the cap­i­tal, and set 12 vil­lages ablaze. “Af­ter all the gains of last year, I think the mil­i­tary should in­ten­sify ef­forts,” Ah­madu Balori, a trader, said.

The first at­tack closed to Maiduguri oc­curred in Sep­tem­ber, when in­sur­gents stormed Alaou gen­eral area, Amarwa and Wanori vil­lages, and killed at least 8 vil­lagers. Many were also in­jured in Kon­duga LGA.

Also, a month later, sus­pected Boko haram in­sur­gents at­tacked Maiduguri suburbs and killed 5 per­sons and looted food items in all three vil­lages of Dala Malari, Fuguri, and Fe­mari, all in Jere LGA of Borno State. The list of dar­ing at­tacks goes on.

Then last week, af­ter in­sur­gents burned down the vil­lage to ground, Vil­lags head of Shuwari Balle, Mal­lam Suleiman Bale, de­cried that this is the sec­ond time the vil­lage at­tacked by Boko Haram, there­fore threat­ened that if a vil­lage of not more than two kilo­me­ters from Giwa Bar­racks could not be pro­tected against any at­tack by the in­sur­gents, they have no other op­tion than to re­lo­cate.

His coun­ter­part, Vil­lage Head of Mam­manti vil­lage a sub­urb of Maiduguri, Mo­hammed Ibrahim Bu­lama, lamented how in­sur­gents set ablaze many houses and carted away livestock, af­ter killing many and set­ting them on fire.

Many farm­ers, also, have been bru­tally killed in suburbs of Maiduguri, as well as Bama, Chi­bok, Ga­ji­ram, Nganzhi, Kon­duga, Jere and other places, and sev­eral times have not been re­ported be­cause of poor telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions fa­cil­i­ties in a good chunk of the state. This de­vel­op­ment has also raised ma­jor fears of food se­cu­rity in the state.

Chair­man of the Net­work of Civil So­ci­ety Or­ga­ni­za­tionss, Am­bas­sador Ahmed Shehu, called on the ser­vice chiefs, for a change in modus operandi, one that would see troops work closely with the com­mu­nity to make sure that civil­ians are safe. “Peo­ple can no longer go to their farms, and roughly 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of these com­mu­ni­ties get their means of liveli­hood through farm­ing. Now, with the threat of death, if they don’t farm, they will die of star­va­tion. Be­tween the devil and the deep blue sea isn’t a good place to be caught at all.”

Boko Haram leader, Shekau, in a still from an un­dated video

Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. TY Bu­ratai

Late Lt Col Sak­aba

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