THE Boko Haram insurgency group is launching a major offensive on major towns in Borno State in an attempt to once again take over territories in the northeast of Nigeria, The ICIR has authoritatively learnt.
The towns, sources who spoke to the news website on Saturday morning said, include Monguno, Damazak and Malumfatori, headquarters of Abadam local government area of Borno State.
On Thursday, Boko Haram fighters launched a massive attack on Baga, another town in Borno State and the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force, comprising troops from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Also stationed in Baga is a brigade of the Nigerian Army.
The attack on Baga, it is believed, was ostensibly to gain access and take over large caches of arms used by the international military task force.
It is still unclear how the insurgents were able to take over the town in spite of the heavy military presence but is believed that they made away with a lot of military equipment, including arms and ammunition.
SaharaReporters reported on Friday that 700 soldiers were missing and 2,000 residents were trapped in the town after the attack.
But the Nigerian Army has denied the claim in a statement released yesterday.
“This [report] ]is not only untrue but a deliberate mischief on the part of the medium to create an erroneous impression about the military and the concerted effort of the ongoing clearing and mop up operations in the general area. Therefore, no one could give accurate details of the encounter yet, as the troops have been reinforced and are busy with the pursuit and mopping up operations against the terrorists,” the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Sani Kukasheka Usman has stated.
The ICIR sources, however, said on Saturday morning that Baga was virtually empty as at 2:00 pm on Friday as all the soldiers in the town had been evacuated to Maiduguri while the insurgents had also left.
Some residents of Maiduguri told this news website that they saw soldiers being conveyed in coaster buses to the Borno State capital on Friday but it could not be confirmed if these troops were evacuated from Baga.
It was gathered that many residents of the town have also fled to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and surrounding communities and towns.
The insurgents’ plot to attack major towns in Borno State might have leaked to some residents during a meeting by the Boko Haram fighters while they held Baga.
A source told our reporter that the Boko Haram fighters had earlier discussed the plan to attack the three towns, but expressed grave concern about Monguno, which hosts a division of the Nigerian Army.
The plot to attack Baga was particularly reported in the news days before the insurgents struck.
Ahmed Salkida, a journalist that has extensively reported the insurgency in the northeast, had tweeted on December 4 that Boko Haram insurgents were gathering in the village of Mattari in Konduga LGA, a few miles to Jakana or Benishek where military facilities are located.
Daily Trust newspaper on December 22 also reported that farmers and fishermen in Northern part of Borno State had raised the alarm that Boko Haram elements were gathering at Doron Naira and Dogon Chukun, two islands along the shores of Lake Chad in order to attack the neighbouring communities, including Baga, the biggest fish hub in Northern Borno.
Baga was worse-hit in a major attack between Nigerian troops and Boko Haram in 2013 where hundreds of Nigerian citizens were killed. But in February 2015, the Nigerian military drove out the insurgents from Baga, successfully reclaiming the town captured by the terrorists on January 3, 2015.
However, the Army authorities reportedly had taken steps to prevent some of the attacks. Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole located at Gudumbali in northern Borno State on Friday 15th December said they had repelled an infiltration by suspected Boko Haram terrorists that came disguised as civilian Internally Displaced Persons and inserted themselves in the community.
Earlier, the federal government had directed the army chief to remain in the northeast until the security situation improves. But with the recent spate of attacks in the northeast region, it appears there is a long way to victory for the army.