Saturday, 31 October 2015

Guess Why Boko Haram Wants This Nondescript House ‘At All Costs’

'Boko Haram Most Wanted House'

Once a sleepy, idyllic area, Gomari in Borno State suddenly found itself an unwilling host to torrents of bomb attacks by Boko Haram. However, Daily Trust found out, that the terrorists’ deadly attention was attracted by a most unusual item.

Residents of the Sajeri and Ajilari cross of Gomari in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, have been suffering persistent attacks, almost on a daily basis. The onslaught, lasting several weeks and claiming hundreds, might have been reprisal in nature, sparked by the arrest and alleged execution of a prominent sect member by security forces.

Local sources hinted to Daily Trust that shortly after the killing of the Civilian JTF leader of the area, who led the arrest and handing over of the prominent sect member to security forces and the sacking of the people occupying the late sect member’s house, and for two weeks now, no attack has been recorded in the area, up to the time of filing this story.

One of the residents of Sajeri, Modu Fannami, said he has been residing in the area for almost eight years now. “This area has been very peaceful. Idyllic, even. Even when other areas were boiling, we were living in peace until two things happened. First, some displaced persons from other parts of the state came and settled here in large number.

Secondly, it came to light that some houses have all this time been occupied by Boko Haram members, around the house and school built by a former commissioner, Alhaji Buji Foi, who was himself arrested and executed for being a Boko Haram member.

When the Boko Haram Amir (leader) of the area was arrested by the Civilian JTF and handed over to the military, a sizeable cache of arms buried around the house was excavated.

A source told Daily Trust: “I do not know if the Amir was executed or if he is still alive, but I know that his children left the area his house was sold. I also know that some Civilian JTF members were living in that same house before a commercial bus driver later moved in with his family. Since then we haven’t had a minute of peace in this area. It was either a bomb planted here or suicide bombers attacking several times a day there. We’ve been attacked on five days of a week, even. Over 200 hundred have died in the attacks.” The source, however, pointed out to the curious detail that Boko Haram’s attacks stopped, apparently because the insurgents have succeeded in recovering their late Amir’s house.
When Daily Trust visited the house in question, in Sajeri area, the house was deserted, as was an adjoining building. There was also no-one about the area and two ladies who were seen close by, scurried away when approached. About 400 meters away, a person peeping through the door of his house whispered: “That house you are coming from is a no-go area. When we see anybody around the house, we are always afraid because the person may be linked to the ownership of the house. I am sorry, there is nothing more I can tell you. If you are a stranger, leave and don’t return.”

Feelers around the area revealed that the sect appears to want the late Amir’s little house unoccupied, with an anonymous respondent saying “at all cost”. After a search, Daily Trust chanced upon one Malam Isa Mohammed, a 45-year-old commercial driver who was the last person known to have occupied the house said to belong to the late Boko Haram Amir. He said it was the Lawan (District Head) of the area that asked him to stay in the house at no cost when he had problems with his former landlady.

Mohammed continued: “When I moved into the house, it had no doors, no toilet and no water. I saw a hole I wanted to expand to make a pit latrine, but I was told to avoid it and dig another one. No-one told me anything about the house, until one day around 2:00 am when I heard footsteps. I peeped through the window and saw two people standing. I opened my door and flashed my torchlight to see who they were.” When he asked them who they were, they told him to turn off his flashlight and follow them.

Reluctantly, he walked towards where they stood, and after about five minutes. Mohammed said: “One of them asked another, in Kanuri, if he should kill me. Believing that I do not understand Kanuri, he replied him that ‘no, let me warn him. I know him. He is a nice man.’ It was at that stage that he asked me in Hausa, who I was. I said I am the one living in this house. Then he said, ‘but it is not your house. This is the house of our Amir’. The unidentified man said to me, ‘in case you do not know, this is the house of our Amir, who they killed before selling it off. Civilian JTF members were occupying the house. Our instruction was to come and eliminate them and reclaim the house but when we came, we found a family with children living in here. We have found out the circumstance that brought you to this house. You’re innocent. I know you as a good man since I was a child.”

The unidentified man said that was the sixth time they have set out to eliminate the occupants of the house. “They said they cannot allow me to remain in the house and will go back and report that they didn’t meet anyone living in it. They told me they would return in two weeks time, so I should vacate the house before then. I pleaded that they should give me till daybreak but they said I don’t need to rush and they left,” he said.

Mohammed said as early as 5:30 am, he went to the room where his wife and ten children slept and told her that he is leaving, never to return to the house. Mohammed said: “I told her to take the children to my father’s compound, after which she should go to her mother’s and stay. Two days later, four female suicide bombers struck the area. One of them targeted my friend, the leader of Civilian JTF in the area, Garba Basaru, apparently because the two insurgents who came to me at night accused him of arresting their Amir and handing him over to the military. The female suicide bomber that knocked at his door that evening rushed at him and detonated her bomb. He survived but later died at the hospital. Since I left the house, that was the last bomb attack on the area.”

When asked if that was his first direct encounter with Boko Haram members, Mohammed said: “I was staying with a young man from Niger Republic in a rented house near my father’s compound and he was dating two girls. He impregnated one and married the other. One day I returned home in the evening, and my father gave me a letter that two young men brought and said should be given to me. I collected it and realized that there was an object inside. I opened the envelope and saw a folded letter and a single, live bullet inside.”

He showed the strange message to his Nigerien friend. “The letter was written in Arabic,” Mohammed said, and his friend read it, translating that the insurgents said they have reserved two each of that kind of bullet to kill them both. “They wrote in the letter that his offense was impregnating a girl, while I was suspected of supporting him as a friend. As early as 5:00 am, he left for his country with his wife in tow,” he said.

A resident of Ajilari Cross, Musa Mohammed Koko, told Daily Trust that many people in the area are of the opinion that the persistent bomb attacks in Sajeri and Ajilari Cross are reprisals on people and areas linked to harsh treatment of Boko Haram members in the area, also blaming it on lack of security. “I could recall when there was an attack here during which over 80 people died, and Governor Kashim Shettima visited and we requested that security should be beefed-up and the internally displaced persons living here should be screened. The governor, who was accompanied by some military bigwigs, directed that soldiers should extend the patrol to this area, but nothing like that has happened till date,” he said.

Koko also said: “We teamed up and went to the Bulama of this area to urge him to remind the relevant authorities that this area is still left without military patrols, despite several attacks, but the Lawan of the area called us and warned that he should keep mute. I do not know what his reasons were. You know, they take orders from different places, including the military.”

One of the Lawans that attended a meeting recently convened by military authorities on security in Gomari and Bulunkutu was told that 30 vehicles have been deployed to the area, to conduct daily patrols in Sajeri and Ajilari areas. The Lawan, who pleaded for anonymity because he has no authority to talk to the press said, “The soldiers also directed all the Lawans and Bulamas at that meeting to direct that there should be no movement of females, no matter how young, after 6:00 pm in Sajeri and Ajilari Cross areas daily, while vehicular movement was ordered to cease after 7:00 pm. Also, it was ordered that everyone, including local vigilantes and Civilian JTF should go off the streets by 8:00 pm until 7:00 am the next morning. “We went round and announced this to every household, but one week later when no single soldier was seen patrolling the area, people decided to go about their normal business. I’m not aware of the reasons for the insurgents’ constant attacks, or the sudden stop, but we are still praying,” he said.

Source, image credit: Daily Trust Newspaper

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