No fewer than 159 people have been killed by suspected members of Boko Haram in three roadside attacks this week along Maiduguri- Biu federal highway, officials have said.
This is as seven people were feared killed as security operatives bombard a hideout of suspected sect members in Abuja. In the first attack, on Tuesday, Boko Haram guerrillas wearing army uniforms stopped traffic on a highway between the cities of Maiduguri and Damaturu, dragging people out of their vehicles and killing them, with 143 bodies recovered so far.
Violence in the North- East area of the country has intensified over the past two months, as the sect fight back against a military operation that started in May to try to crush their four-year-old rebellion.
Tuesday’s toll was initially given as “more than 20”, but information often takes days to trickle out of the remote and sparsely populated region, where roads are bad, curfews are in force and the military has cut the phone network since May. “We have been picking corpses off the roadsides all day, there are more in the bush,” said Abdulazeez Kolomi, an Environmental Protection Agency official in Benisheik village. “They are all travellers slaughtered by Boko Haram gunmen. We have so far picked up 143 corpses.”
On Thursday, following a similar pattern, Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 16 people in an attack on travellers plying a highway from Maiduguri to Bamboa, a police source collecting bodies on the scene told Reuters.
This is even as our correspondent observed that there was a heavy concentration of Vigilante Youths (a.k.a Civilian JTF) on the streets of Maiduguri metropolis following intelligence report that the terrorists had issued letters of threat to attack some of the communities at the weekend. It was gathered that the terrorists numbering over 50 with sophisticated weapons barricaded the Maiduguri -Damaturu highway on the two occasions stopping motorists and passengers, particularly those they believed were heading to Maiduguri for international flight to Saudi Arabia for the 2013 Hajj exercise which was launched by the Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo in Maiduguri last Saturday.
An unconfirmed report revealed that following the incident, Yobe State government had suspended its earlier plan to airlift its pilgrims from Maiduguri International Airport. It therefore resolved to use Kano International Airport.
It was also gathered from a reliable source that the same group of gunmen that unleashed terror in some parts of the state were those who intercepted motorists and a commercial bank bullion van with security escorts along Maiduguri- Damboa Road killing eight people on Thursday before killing 26 other people on Friday some few metres away from Bulabulin Ngaura Village. Mallam Musa Ali, a members of vigilante youths who also accompanied some of the security operatives to Limanti said, “we were able to convey over 30 corpses from the scene of the incident, including some women who were lucky to have not been killed by the terrorists, but we found them in traumatic condition, which I believe will be attended to by medical personnel.”
The Borno State Assembly member representing Damboa constituency, Alhaji Lawan Ayamu Gwasha, confirmed the attack to newsmen in Maiduguri saying “my people reported to me from the village that many people were killed on Thursday and Friday by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram sect members.”
Owing to lack of communication network which was closed down for the past four months, both the Police Commissioner, Lawal Tanko and the acting spokesman of the newly established 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Sagir Musa, could not be reached for confirmation.
Meanwhile, seven persons suspected to be members of the Boko Haram terrorist group were yesterday feared killed when a full complement of security operatives stormed an uncompleted building located behind Apo Legislators Quarters in Abuja.
The incident happened at Zone E, just 100 metres behind the mosque of the Apo Legislators Quarters, just as members of the sect were reported to have killed no fewer than 34 in persons made up of motorists and passengers plying Maiduguri-Biu federal highway in Limanti Village of Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State on Thursday and Friday.
The Abuja operation which occurred at about 12:30am yesterday reportedly saw 17 suspects injured and the arrest of 200 others, some of who were said to have been rounded up at different locations in the territory.
Earlier reports placed casualty figures at between nine and 12, however, a visit to the Asokoro General Hospital revealed that seven bodies had been deposited in the morgue. In a swift reaction, Deputy Director, Public Relations in the Department of State Service, Marilyn Ogar, who was at the scene denied knowledge of any deaths, but said while several persons were injured, 12 were arrested.
According to her, the incident occurred in the early hours of the day when a combined team of security operatives went for an operation behind the Apo Legislators’ Quarters. She said the operation was sequel to information obtained from two Boko Haram elements Kamal Abdullahi and Mohammed Adamu, who had earlier been arrested by the DSS for terrorist activities.
They led the security team to uncompleted buildings where arms were purported to have been buried underground. Ogar added that the two suspects had forewarned security operatives that they were most likely to come under fierce resistance by their members in the building.
She denied allegations of extra-judicial killings, saying security operatives came under gun attack when they attempted to exhume the buried weapons and so they had to use their firepower to rein the hoodlums.
“No sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements within the area, which prompted immediate response from the security team. “As a result, some persons were injured and 12 others have been arrested in connection with the incident, and are making useful statements”, she said.
While reiterating the need for Nigerians to be more aware of their immediate environment and promptly report suspicious activities to security agencies, the DSS spokesperson said the place had been rendered safe and normalcy had returned to the area. “Members of the public are advised to go about their normal businesses, as appropriate security measures have been emplaced to ensure the safety of citizens in the FCT”, she added.
Both Abdullahi and Adamu told Saturday Mirror in an interview that they belonged to an armed group known as “Youth Forum” and that they often hid their weapons in the building and as well carry out their meetings within the premises.
They said the building belonged to an army general who had earlier given a quit notice to the illegal occupants, some of who were Rickshaw (Keke NAPEP) operators.
“But our colleagues decided that since there was no better place to stay within the city, they would approach the security guard in the compound for assistance.
The plan worked because it was agreed that each night, everyone would pay N200 to the guard in order to sleep there,” said Abdullahi. According to the Department of Development Control in the Federal Capital Territory FCT Administration, there are currently 480 uncompleted buildings within the city centre -a situation which poses a lot of security risk to the nation’s capital.
A resident of the area who did not want his name mentioned, told our correspondent that the position of the security operatives was a complete baloney. He said: “It happened at about 12 midnight. Some armed soldiers came. There are some uncompleted buildings in the area.
The area is Apo Zone E in Legislative Quarters. It is not far from the mosque. “It’s just about 100 meters from the mosque. As I’m speaking to you right now, the policemen there are more than 40. They’ve gathered over 200 Hausa boys.
They killed over 12 unarmed people. There are still some magazines of soldiers littered everywhere. “Maybe the police have carried the 12 corpses to the morgue. Maybe somebody alerted the security guys that the boys are suspected Boko Haram members. They’ve never harmed anybody since we started staying there. They’re not even stolen anything from anyone.
“What we just learnt is that the owner of the uncompleted building has been warning them not to live in that house. He has been threatening them. “The policemen arrived there around 7.15 this morning after the soldiers raided the place.
Those soldiers came around 12 midnight and were just shooting sporadically till 2 am. We couldn’t sleep.”