by Chris Agbambu, Seyi Gesinde, Hassan Ibrahim, James Bwala and Christian Okeke
THE war against insurgency in the country is entering a new dimension, as the Boko Haram Islamist group is believed to be recruiting Tuareg fighters to beef up its offensive against Nigerian military.
An indication to this was confirmed, when Cameroon’s Communications Minister, Issa Tchiroma, on Tuesday, said two Tuareg fighters were identified among the dead, after Cameroon’s military said it had killed more than 100 militants after they fired shells into the small border town of Fotokol.
Tchiroma, during a press conference on Tuesday, said “two Tuareg fighters were clearly identified” among those killed by Cameroon’s military.
Analysts, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), however, said if the minister’s report was true, “it increases suspicion that Boko Haram is recruiting fighters from other countries, possibly Niger and Mali, as Nigeria does not have a Tuareg population.”
Who are the Tuareg people?
According to Wikipedia, the Tuareg are known to be people with a traditionally nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, who are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa.
The Tuareg language, a branch of the Berber languages, has an estimated 1.2 million speakers, about half of which is accounted for by speakers of the Eastern dialect, Tamajaq and Tawallammat.
Most Tuareg live in the Saharan parts of Niger, Mali, and Algeria. Being nomadic, they move constantly across national borders.
Small groups of Tuareg also live in southeastern Algeria, southwestern Libya and northern Burkina Faso, while they also own a small community in northern Nigeria.
After Boko Haram’s Monday’s offensive failed, the military appears to be intensifying air attacks. Many jets reportedly flew from Yola airbase to Boko Haram-occupied areas on Tuesday, after fighter jets dropped bombs in two places in the town on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, said scores of insurgents were, on Tuesday, killed, when the troops engaged them and foiled their attempt to enter Bintin, his home town.
Informed military sources disclosed to the Nigerian Tribune that frantic efforts to enter the town by the insurgents were rebuffed by troops brought in from Kaduna, Jos and Makurdi.
According to the source, the troops were cornered from all angles and a gun battle ensued, during which scores were killed while others fled.
It was also reliably gathered that 17 of their Hilux vehicles and anti-aircraft missiles were destroyed, while four were taken away by the troops.
The military source added that when the insurgents were approaching Mubi, the troops retreated, which made the civilian to panic, until troops from the three other states arrived and cut them off and gun battle ensued.
Also, automatic machine guns mounted on their Hilux vehicles and powered by small generating set were captured.
The sources added that after the gun battle on Monday, troops succeeded in routing out the insurgents from Michika, Cuba and Gulak.
However, the Islamic sect reaffirmed on Tuesday it had taken over Bama and Michika towns in both Borno and Adamawa states.
Speaking on phone to some journalists in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Monday evening, Abu Zinnira, who claimed to be the spokesman of the group, said contrary to claims by the Nigerian authorities, the sect had chase all security operatives in the areas and had its fighters in charge.
“This is a rebuttal from the information dissemination and sensitisation unit of the Jamaatul Ahlil Sunna Lidawati Wal Jihad (Boko Haram) on the series of lies that the Nigeria military have been feeding the world on our recent conquests.
“Let the whole world know that we are on the path of victory, because up to this minute, the town of Bama is under our control, the whole of Minchika is now in our hands, as well as Manalapan (Junction of) Mubi, which is now fully under our control. We are assuring the world that this would be continuous and there will be no going back by God’s grace. This is a message from me Abu Zinnira, on behalf of our brethren,” he said.
As a result of the offensive, according to the BBC Hausa report monitored in Kaduna on Tuesday, the situation in Mubi town was tense, with atmosphere of fear and anxiety enveloping the border town, leaving the residents to flee to neighbouring towns for safety.
A resident of Mubi, who spoke to the BBC Hausa on phone, said they were in a state of fear, adding that he could not see a single soldier in the locality.
While giving an account of what happened between the Cameroon’s soldiers and the insurgents near the border town, a Hausa speaking man said the soldiers overwhelmed the insurgents who were wielding sophisticated weapons and killed many as they tried to forcefully encroach into Cameroon’s territory.
Meanwhile, the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a local vigilante group that was assisting the military in the fight against insurgency, had denied a report which alleged that they were also involved in human rights violation and war crimes.
A member of the civilian JTF had, in an interview with the BBC, denied the allegation of conscripting young children to fight and rape on innocent girls.
The report, according to BBC Hausa, said the insurgents, the civilian JTF and even the soldiers, were guilty of rape, abducting the under-aged and Almajiri, in connivance with village chiefs to fight for or against the insurgency.
Last month, Boko Haram declared an Islamic state in areas it controls in the North East.
Experts, according to BBC, raised concerns that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, could break up in a way similar to Iraq and Syria, where the militant group Islamic State (IS) has declared a caliphate.
The BBC reported that “the failure of the army to re-take Bazza, where Lieutenant-Colonel Adeboye Obasanjo was injured, had created panic.
Thousands of people, according to BBC, are fleeing northern parts of Adamawa state where Boko Haram insurgents maintain a firm control of four towns – Madagali, Gulak, Michika and Bazza – and many surrounding villages.
Mubi, which is the largest commercial centre in the state, has been deserted. Many, fearing it will be the next target, have arrived in the state capital, Yola, taking refuge in the houses of relatives and at camps set up on the outskirts at Doubeli and Girei.
One owner of a large five-bedroom house said about 200 people are now sleeping in it.
20 officers still missing in Gwoza —IGP
The acting Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, on Tuesday, confirmed that about 20 police officers were still missing after the Boko Haram attacks on Police Training School located in Gwoza, Borno State.
He actually said they were “just less than 20.”
Speaking to State House correspondents after a meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo, Abba stated that even as some missing officers had been found, his men would stop at nothing to ensure every missing officer was traced and rescued.
He said the police hierarchy was still concerned with everyone of the officers and vowed they would not relent in the efforts of tracing them.
“Well, I must tell you that the turnout of those missing is still impressive, because we have been able to trace some of the officers who have reported, either back to their bases or their families.
“When you go through what they went through, the likelihood of you knowing what to do is not very tenable. There is a possibility that the decision of what to do may not be easily comprehensible.
“So some went back to their homes, but our concern is that they are in safety and we are satisfied and the process of bringing them back to their units has already commenced.”
Speaking on the recent deployment of officers of the force, the IGP said “I don’t think change of officers is reorganisation in itself, but repositioning officers can lead to perhaps what we may call advancement.
“What we are trying to do is a normal thing, it has always been done. We access performance and also take into cognisance vacancies available. We are all aware that quite a number of commissioners of police retired recently. Some of them were coursemates of the retired IGP, so they left along with him after their 35 years in service.
“The whole exercise is just an efforts to fill vacancies and, of course, reposition the officers, based on performance,” he said.
by Chris Agbambu, Seyi Gesinde, Hassan Ibrahim, James Bwala and Christian Okeke