Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fighter jets, troops halt B’Haram’s advance to Damaturu


Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh
Daring  Boko Haram  insurgents on Monday night advanced towards Damaturu, the Yobe State capital but were  halted by ground troops and fighters of the Nigerian Air Force.
Few hours before the incident, another batch of  insurgents launched  a vicious attack on Jakana in   the Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State.
Eleven elderly people were among the 40 victims  that died in the attack, the fourth in the last three days in Borno State.
Military   sources  and eyewitnesses  made these known to  our correspondents  just as it was gathered that  many residents of  Benisheik and  Muna in Borno State fled  their homes  following  threats by Boko Haram to  attack their two communities  on Tuesday night.
It was learnt that the  insurgents suffered heavy casualties in the operation described as one of the most successful outings of the   Air Force since the commencement of the   campaign against Boko Haram.
“On Monday night, they attempted to attack Damaturu; they were advancing towards the city  when they  were sighted but    soldiers and  Air Force fighters  countered them.
‘Several of them were killed in that fight and a security personnel was also shot to death.
“The Air Force did very well; I think that is one of the best  battles of the Air Force since this thing (campaign against terrorists) started.”
The PUNCH gathered  on Tuesday  that the   insurgents stormed  Jakana  around 11.30pm on Monday  and had fierce gunfight with  troops mostly    drawn  from the 7th Infantry Division.
The  terrorists were however said to have  succeeded in burning down the village and   the only police station on the Maiduguri/Damaturu highway   even though many  of them were killed.
It was further gathered that the soldiers  seized  a  Mercedes Benz 9/11 truck   abandoned by  the insurgents.
 Three  soldiers  were  however said to have sustained gunshot wounds while  two  policemen were  shot to death.
A resident, who did  not want his name in print, said, “When they (insurgents) came into the town, we thought they were soldiers until they began to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ and spray bullets on everything. Realising     that  they were    Boko Haram people and  not soldiers, we  took to our heels.”
He added that  while they were running, some of them were  hit and  killed  by bullets  while  some  were lucky enough to escape to Maiduguri through the bushes.
Another resident interjected, saying, “I am one of  those lucky enough to find myself among others in Maiduguri after running through the bushes. We  arrived  near the military check- point at Computer Village on  the outskirts of  Maiduguri.”
As of 9pm on Monday, the  official casualty figure  could not be ascertained.
Senator Ahmed Zannah, who represents  Borno Central, told  journalists   that  the insurgents burnt  11 elderly people  to   death in   some  of the  houses they set fire on.
He  also said that  many  residents, who   got wind of the insurgents’ plan to attack them   fled  the community.
The lawmaker  claimed  that soldiers who  initially fled on sighting the insurgents later  regrouped and confronted them.
According to him,   the insurgents  retreated  but  warned that they would  return  to “finish the unfinished business.”
The  threat, he said,  made  more  residents to flee to Maiduguri “out of fear.”
The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, confirmed the attack on Jakana on Monday night in a telephone conversation with one of  our correspondents.
Olukolade was, however, silent on the casualty figure.
 “It is true that there was an attack on Jakana but I don’t have the details now,” he said.
Investigations also revealed that  tension was  high  in Benisheik and Muna early on Tuesday as Boko Haram  was said to have   written  the residents informing them that their communities  were  to be attacked at night.
It was learnt that even though the military had placed  soldiers on red alert, the residents of the  two communities left  for safer places.
A source said, “They(Boko Haram)  wrote  to Muna and Benisheik threatening  to attack  them this(Tuesday) night. Soldiers  are  however  on the alert.
“But some of the inhabitants of the villages are leaving because they believe the people may come. They  don’t want to be there during the fighting.”
The Defence Spokesman also confirmed the arrest of the mastermind of the twin bomb blasts  in  Bintu Sugar Ngamari,  Maiduguri on Saturday.
Olukolade, who had earlier announced the arrest of two suspects, said  the  interrogation  of the mastermind  had commenced.
“The mastermind has been arrested; he went in to a coma, but he has been revived, and interrogation has since commenced.  He is the one directly responsible for the bomb blasts,” he added.
Meanwhile, the  National Emergency Management Agency    has said  that 55,500 internally displaced persons have been attended to in Borno  State since the beginning of this  year.
The Information Officer, North-East zonal office of the agency, AbdulKadir Ibrahim, told  journalists  on Tuesday    that  most of the displaced  persons had  shunned camps set up by the agency for  them for fear of being attacked by insurgents.
Also on Tuesday,  the  Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese, Most Rev. Oliver Dashe Doeme,    said  that Boko Haram  was  a  product  of  corruption.
Dashe, who    called on government to find ways to end the  insurgency,   said, “If corruption goes, there will be no Boko Haram, no kidnapping and  no armed robbery. Even if they exist, they  will be minimal. If Nigerians are empowered, they will not engage in  some of these vices.”
He lamented that over 500 members of the church,  20 churches and priests’ apartments  had been  burnt down since the   insurgency  began in 2009.
The cleric said,  “Though it will be hard to give an accurate figure, I cannot talk of Christians and Muslims but since 2009, we have had  over 500 Catholics killed.
“Since 2009, we have been witnessing the senseless and merciless killings of our people, both Christians and Muslims.
“Corruption is number one problem of the nation;  the Boko Haram insurgency is a product of corruption. The Federal Government should fight corruption headlong. It is sad that few people are sitting on billions of  naira.  The youths  that are involved in Boko Haram  activities could have distanced themselves from it if they were given opportunities.”

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