Buhari on Monday further signalled his intent to crush the six-year Islamist uprising by sacking the entire military high command that oversaw the Islamists’ rise in strength last year. The latest raids happened late last Friday.
On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, a day after the first suicide attack in northern Cameroon that killed at least 11. In another sign of the rebels’ threat to regional security, a suicide bomber disguised as a woman in a full-face veil blew himself up in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, on Saturday, killing 15.
Area hit before
Sheriff Kulo, from Kilwa, said militant fighters stormed his village late on Friday night, killing residents before stealing food and cattle then burning down homes. “In Kilwa alone, they killed seven people, including the village head and left one seriously injured with a fracture on his leg,” he added.
“They then proceeded to Gwollam, Misala and Magaram, where they did the same thing. In all they killed 43,” he told newsmen from Maiduguri, where he fled to raise the alarm. “They opened fire on residents and in some cases they used knives to slaughter their victims.”
There was no independent corroboration of his toll but the Borno state police commissioner, Aderemi Padokun, said: “From what we heard, the gunmen raided these villages. “They shot dead their victims and in some cases slit their throats. They also carted away foodstuffs and livestock.
“We don’t have details of the actual number of people killed in the attack but I can confirm it happened.” Boko Haram mounted a similar raid on a nearby village in the Monguno area on July 1, killing 48 people.
Buhari’s removal of the military top brass he inherited from his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was expected but he indicated that his new team must deliver. The replacement officials, including a new chief of army staff and national security adviser both from Borno which has been worst affected by the violence, were chosen “on merit”, he told them.
Retired army colonel Hassan Stan-Labo told newsmen he welcomed the changes at the top and called on Buhari to now overhaul military logistics and communications. Lagos-based political analyst Jide Ogunlesi said the appointments indicated Buhari – a former army general and military ruler – “can pick a good team that can deliver”.
But he warned against politicising the military in the way some alleged the former high command was during Jonathan’s administration. “Critics will be silenced when they see these officers perform,” he told pressmen. “I think their appointment will give a fillip and a stronger bite to the fight against terrorism and all forms of banditry.”
Nigeria’s military has been traditionally dominated by officers from the mainly Muslim north and Jonathan was accused of ignoring the insurgency because he was from the Christian-majority south. Some saw regional bias in the appointments with Buhari also a Muslim from the north, while others said the high command should be given time to be effective in their new positions.
Boko Haram’s upsurge in attacks on civilians comes after a four-nation coalition of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon pushed out the militants from captured territory earlier this year. A new, strengthened force with African Union backing is expected to deploy by the end of the month.