Boko Haram gunmen on Tuesday attacked Konduga town in Borno State, killing 53 persons. They also abducted 25 teenage girls and set fire on many houses in the town.
Konduga is a town along Maiduguri-Bama Road and is about 40 kilometres from the state capital, Maiduguri.
The gunmen attacked the only hospital in the town, abducted the medical doctor and carted away drugs and medical equipment.
They also destroyed the town’s central mosque, the palace of the district head, the market and the Abba Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies with explosives.
However, residents of the town claimed that over 100 people were killed during the attack, adding that many corpses were still in the bush surrounding the community.
The Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who visited the town on Wednesday, broke down in tears during the funeral prayer organised for 33 victims of the attack.
It was learnt that few hours before Shettima’s arrival at the town, 18 corpses had already been buried at the Madarari area of Konduga.
Our correspondent saw two other corpses lying unattended to in one of the streets of the town.
Residents were also seen fleeing the troubled town when the governor visited.
The insurgents were alleged to have torched about 80 per cent of the buildings in the town during Tuesday attack that eyewitnesses said lasted between 4pm and 8pm.
The insurgents, who were over 200, according to eyewitnesses, stormed the town at 4pm in 39 Toyota Hilux vehicles, armed with sophisticated weapons including rocket propelled grenades (RPGS), assault rifles and explosive devices.
Some of the residents of the town, who claimed that the soldiers and the volunteer youth vigilance group were overpowered by the insurgents, lamented that they were left at the mercy of the assailants.
“They killed our people at will and destroyed our houses with explosives,” one of the residents told journalists.
A resident of the town, who spoke with journalists on the condition of anonymity said, “About seven gunmen came to where I was. One was on the tree pointing his rifle down and the others were shooting sporadically even as they threw explosives at the houses.”
According to him, two persons including a boy were felled by the insurgents’ bullets which he claimed he narrowly escaped.
One Alhaji Ibrahim told journalists that some wares were burnt at the market as the shops were destroyed with explosives.
Ibrahim said, “We saw so many vehicles coming, the soldiers exchanged fire with them. But they (soldiers) later fled after they were overpowered by the gunmen. The Civilian JTF men were also overpowered and we were left at the mercy of the assailants.”
He claimed that over 100 people were killed with many corpses still lying in bushes unattended to as many of the residents were preoccupied with fleeing the town.
Ibrahim also said that the insurgents were dressed in military camouflage with veiled turban which differentiated them from regular soldiers.
Another resident, Iya Kaka, who was in tears when he spoke to journalists, said, “Boko Haram came to our houses where we have been living peacefully, they came at about 4pm and destroyed everything, our children are scattered we do not know if they are alive or dead.”
A teacher in the town, who suffered burns from the attack, Yana Kwada, said from his hiding place he saw the insurgents abducting five teenage girls from the market.
He added that he saw another group of insurgents who had abducted another set of 20 teenage girls from the Government Girls’ Secondary School and Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies.
Kwada believed that the insurgents must have taken the girls to their camps believed to be in the forest.
Our correspondent, who followed the governor to the attacked town, saw many burnt houses and many domestic animals that had been roasted.
Shettima, who led a large group of his aides and commissioners to the town, could not control his emotion as he wept during the prayer session held for the deceased at the partially destroyed central mosque.
Most of his aides and some surviving residents at the funeral prayer also wept. Some fought back tears while others just kept on muttering “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in pains.
The governor after gaining control of his emotion ordered that food items should be immediately brought in to feed the people.
He directed his commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs to release N100m for the purchase of building materials and food items for the victims of the attack.
The governor also directed the commissioner for works to handle the purchase of the building materials while he directed the commissioner for local government to handle the purchase of food items.
He said, “Security or no security I am ready to stay with my people. Whoever wishes to go anywhere can do so but I will remain with Borno people and share in their pains.
“Nobody should bring the suggestion that any part of the state is not safe so I should go somewhere else. I am ready to face the problem with my people and together we will find solution to it. Whatever resources it will take to rebuild the houses, I will make them available .”
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency has moved into the town to establish camps for the displaced persons.
The agency, in a press statement by the North-East Zonal Information Officer, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, stated, “The Zonal office received the reports from the Nigerian Red Cross on the occurrence of attacks on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at around 5pm by unknown gunmen.
“The coordinated attack took place in Konduga, a town along Maiduguri-Bama Road which is about 40 kilometres away from the state capital, Maiduguri, Borno State.
“According to some residents, the gunmen were said to be in large numbers, with very sophisticated weapons such as guns, IED, etc.
“Assessment has been carried out and the registration of Internally Displaced people (IDPS) has begun. Basic relief items will soon be delivered.”