No fewer than 90 persons were killed, weekend, in separate incidents in Benue and Borno States.
In Benue, 55 persons were killed, yesterday, afternoon in one of the bloodiest clashes between Tiv youths and suspected Fulani mercenaries at Gbajimba, the headquarters of Guma Local Government Area of the state, while 35 persons died when Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) suspected to have been planted by Boko Haram terrorists exploded at a market square in Ngurosoye village of Bama council area of Borno State.
The deaths were recorded on a day the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Kenneth Minimah, charged officers and soldiers involved in the
ongoing counter terrorist operations in the North-East to ensure that the terrorists no longer have any opportunity to perpetrate atrocities
In the Benue clash, heavy gun battle was still raging in the besieged town at press time while women and children were said to be fleeing to nearby villages and Makurdi, the state capital, for safety.
This latest fighting is coming on the heels of the recent sacking of Tse Ortom-Adorogo, home town of the Minister of State for Trade and Investment and Supervising Minister of Aviation, Dr. Samuel Ortom, after Governor Gabriel Suswam’s convoy had also been attacked on that axis by the invaders.
Vanguard reliably gathered from an eyewitness that the suspected mercenaries stormed Gbajimba, yesterday morning but were repelled by armed Tiv youths who engaged them in a bloody fight.
According to the eyewitness, “they came in their numbers very early this morning from Awe Local Government Area of Nasarawa State and made an attempt to seize the town and the local government secretariat but they were confronted by our youths who resisted them, forcing them to beat a retreat.
“Just this afternoon at about 1 o’clock, they staged a more coordinated attack on the town, this time they came in their hundreds, shooting, burning down houses, huts and killing anything in sight.
“The Police station in Gbajimba is helpless because we have less than 50 officers and men on ground at the station and this attack has completely overwhelmed them.
Serious fighting ongoing
“As I speak, serious fighting is still going on in Gbajimba. About 55 persons may have been killed on both sides because corpses of the dead litter the invaded communities. So many of our people are also missing at this moment.
“But from the look of things, if security personnel do not quickly mobilise into the town, the invaders may succeed in taking over the ancient town after sacking close to 100 villages in the local government area in the last few weeks.
“Our fear is that if Gbajimba is allowed to fall into the hands of these marauders, it could be used as a launching pad to attack Makurdi which is just a few minutes drive from the ancient town.”
Contacted, the Police spokesperson, Superintendent Daniel Ezeala said: “We gathered that there is serious fighting in Gbajimba right now but I’m yet to get a formal briefing on the matter.”
Bomb kills 35 in Borno market
In Borno, the bomb explosion occurred when most traders had come for business and all of a sudden, there was a deafening sound at the centre of the market, killing about 35 persons. Several others were also injured and some shops were destroyed.
Ngurosoye is a farming community off the Sambisa forest and about 10 kilometres from Bama council area which had witnessed series of attacks by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in recent times.
A local trader who gave his name as Mallam Isa Umar Bama, who survived the blast, told our correspondent that the incident took place few metres from his shop, adding that it was by the grace of God that he is alive as some people around him died in the blast.
He said: “It was by the grace of Allah (God) that I am alive, as one of my neighbours who sold onions and customers died in the explosion.
“The attack on the market is purely the handiwork of Boko Haram insurgents who fled from the Sambisa forest after the military offensive on their camps.”
Shuaibu Abdulahi, another trader at the market said: “I travelled to Bama to buy bags of beans. Suddenly, there was a deafening bang at the middle of the market. It was in the late afternoon and commercial activities were at their peak.” He estimated the death toll to be as high as 29.
Abba Tahir, a bus driver, who was offloading passengers at the market, said he counted 20 bodies.
He said:“People were helping in evacuating the corpses after the confusion had died down. Some people, who were injured, were taken to the general hospital.”
Borno CP confirms blast
Borno State Police Commissioner, Mr Lawal Tanko, confirmed the incident to our correspondent on phone, insisting that “it was a bomb suspected to have been planted by Boko Haram terrorists at the centre of the market in Ngurosoye that exploded during market hour, killing several people and injuring others.”
He said, already, a team of the anti-bomb squad had been dispatched to the affected area to ascertain the cause of the blast.
Terrorists must be denied chances for mayhem —COAS
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Kenneth Minimah, weekend, charged officers and soldiers involved in the ongoing counter terrorist operations in the North-East, to ensure that the terrorists do not have any ground or opportunity again to breach security and perpetrate atrocities in any part of their areas of responsibility in the campaign again.
General Minimah gave the charge in Maiduguri while addressing officers in Giwa Barracks during his operational tour to monitor deployment and disposition of troops in the theatre of counter terrorist campaign covering Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
While commending the troops for their resilience in the ongoing offensive against the terrorists, the Army chief assured them that all necessary efforts were being made to ensure that troops did not lack any requirement that is considered vital to achieve the success of the mission.
He, however, warned the troops against any form of indiscipline or mishandling of equipment available for the operation at the moment.
The Army chief emphasized the need for officers to continue to give required leadership to the men.
He said: “All the training and experience already imparted in all military personnel were now necessary and required to ensure that the entire effort at curbing the menace of terrorism succeed as planned.”
The Army chief who was in the company of his Air Force counterpart, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, also visited the Military Hospital in Maiduguri and interacted with troops who were wounded in the course of the operation.
The Commander of the hospital, Brig-Gen Ike Okeke, while briefing the service chiefs, stated that most of the wounded soldiers were now in stable condition and some of them have expressed the desire to rejoin their units and colleagues in the operation.
The army chief, however, directed that the hospital should forward to him directly, any case that required referral for further treatment anywhere in world.
The service chiefs also conducted a comprehensive air surveillance of the entire mission area covering Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in addition to the direct inspection of some key locations.
Speaking to reporters separately in Maiduguri, the service chiefs disclosed that they were satisfied with the progress of the operations and performance of the deployment so far, noting that substantial expectations of the counter terrorist campaign was being achieved satisfactorily.
By Kingsley Omonobi, Peter Duru & Ndahi Marama