Saturday, 12 September 2015

‘Boko Haram Now Desperate, Looting And Conscripting Randomly’

A Daily Trust newspaper investigation has revealed that the renewed efforts of the Nigerian military  currently fighting to restore law and order across the North-East is yielding good results as the Boko Haram sect is apparently gasping for breath and desperately conscripting just about anyone they can lay their hands on, especially at remote areas of Borno State.

An encounter with fleeing villagers in Maiduguri by our correspondent revealed that on September 2, at night, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants invaded a village in Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State, recruiting youths to replenish their fast-diminishing ranks. 

Baa Usman, 45, who arrived Maiduguri on September 3, told Daily Trust that when the gunmen stormed Ngubala village under Bamma district in Magumeri LGA, they besieged the area, going round houses, asking residents to come out and assemble in one place.

“When everybody was assembled in a particular location, the gunmen began selecting young, exuberant ones to sit aside for a preaching session, as they referred to it. They however allowed others, mostly women, children and those advanced in age, to go back home,” he said.

Usman added that the gunmen were seen in the village’s market on Sunday, the market day, though they did not harm anybody. They just went about calmly, buying foodstuff and some essentials, leaving immediately.

“The gunmen had been hitherto sighted moving around villages of Magumeri LGA, though they didn’t attack anyone. But they do sometimes seize cattle and food items and make away with them. They seem very calm when they’re going about their business, probably because soldiers are only present in Magumeri town, not in smaller, surrounding villages where the gunmen enjoy a sort of freedom,” Usman said.

Elsewhere in Mailari village of Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, another group of gunmen had on the same Wednesday attacked the village, killing five residents and leaving scores injured, a source disclosed. He said though the details remain sketchy, those who sustained injuries from the attack have been since brought to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and are being treated. 

The source added that the gunmen had succeeded in taking away many persons that could not run for safety, saying the kidnapped persons would have been forcefully recruited as fighters against their fellow citizens, stressing that the Boko Haram sect has been now losing strength and forced into mass recruitment. 

The source also said it is clear that the Boko Haram sect is no longer selective in its current ‘aggressive recruitment drive’, because the group is currently being dealt severe blows by Nigerian military forces. He added that in the past, when the terrorists invade a village, they would be selective in kidnapping their victims, as opposed to the recent approach of grabbing anyone in sight. 

Another twist in the tale has the violent sect reacting to the multinational forces from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun blocking their supply of arms, food and fuel by resorting to using horses and donkeys for mobility in some parts of Borno State. Daily Trust gathered that there are very clear indications that the insurgents are running short vital supplies, including fuel for vehicles.

At Lassa, in the Southern part of Borno State, 93-year-old Ijefeda  narrated how insurgents on horseback attacked his village, Yafa and abducted most of its inhabitants and those of nearby hamlets. “They came to Yafa on horseback and took girls, women and young men. We, the elderly ones, were about 20 and they basically ignored us as we battled with hunger and thirst for many, many days,” he said. 

But, Ijefeda added, “One day we suddenly saw dust everywhere, accompanied by gunshots and in no time soldiers were all over the place. They rescued us and took us to Maiduguri and on the way I was discussing with other elders and for their villages, too, Boko Haram members rode horses to attack.” 

Modu Bukar was a fisherman at Baga before he fled after an attack. He revealed that insurgents in the area have formed the habit of raiding village markets for food. “At first they were coming around to buy fuel in large quantity, but the supply of fuel became very low. But the notion that they do not have a lot of money now may be inaccurate. Just last week at Karna village, after Tungushe, when the vehicle carrying the Amir (Boko Haram commander) of the area accidentally ran over bread spread on a mat for sale, he came down and asked his boys to pick up all the bread, put in their vehicles and he brought out cash and paid.”

Bukar added that recently, in Karna, the insurgents stormed in on horseback, killed six people, looted shops and homes, snatched the car of the Chief Imam of the village and used it to cart away their booty. “There are several complaints by travellers, farmers and villagers being dispossessed of their horses,” he said. 
However, there are no reports of horseback attacks close to the state capital, Maiduguri. 

At Balle Mammani, about seven kilometers away from Giwa Barracks in the outskirts of Maiduguri where Boko Haram attacked and killed six people a few weeks ago, they carried out the attacks in vehicles and on foot.

Daily Trust also spoke to residents of Abadan, Guzamala and Kukawa, who said they were attacked recently by insurgents riding horses and donkeys, armed with sophisticated weapons. Because of that, it came as no surprise when some days ago, the Nigerian Army banned the use of horses and donkeys by the general public, particularly traditional rulers, in Borno State. The Army said the ban was necessary as members of terrorist group, Boko Haram, have turned to the animals as their means of transportation.

“Anyone found using a horse would be considered an insurgent,” spokesman of 7 Division of Nigerian Army, Col. Tukur Gusau, warned.

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