Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Boko Haram Strike again hits military bases in Maiduguri

Boko Haram Strike again hits military bases in Maiduguri
 From Punch ; 

 Scores of  civilians and  security operatives were killed  on Monday morning by  suspected Boko Haram terrorists, who  unleashed mayhem  on  military facilities and areas inhabited by  civilians in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The attacks  by   the insurgents, who rode into the  troubled city in different vehicles, including an armoured personnel carrier, chanting Islamic slogans, were  said to have  lasted  for about six hours before  they were  curtailed.

The Director of Defence Information, Brig.–Gen.  Chris Olukolade,   in an electronic mail on Monday, said  that  24 insurgents were killed in the attacks  which also resulted in the wounding of two    Nigerian Air Force personnel.
Although Olukolade   was silent on  the  civilian casualty, a   resident of the Gomari area, a few kilometres to the Maiduguri International Airport, said  he saw five trucks conveying dead soldiers to  a  hospital in the city  around 6am.

Two   brothers, who had just ended their   early morning  Subhi prayer, were  among the civilians  killed by  the insurgents.

Another  military source    said the city would have been overrun  by the Boko Haram members if not for the deployment of alpha jets from Yola, Adamawa State.

• Jonathan meets NSA, CDS, service chiefs

The Monday incident  made  President Goodluck Jonathan  to  summon  the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.);   the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, and the service chiefs to an emergency meeting.

Schools in the troubled city were  immediately closed as parents rushed  to them  to take their children home.
It also led to imposition of  a 24-hour curfew  on Maiduguri by the Borno State Government and the temporary  closure of the  airport in the city  by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. All the roads leading to the town were  shut.

Maiduguri streets  were  deserted  while ambulances and security vans were seen conveying corpses to a teaching hospital from the attacked areas.

 Immediately after news of the attack spread, heavy  security presence  was noticed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

The PUNCH  however   gathered  that Jonathan summoned the NSO, the CDS,  the  Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Alex Badeh ; and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika, to give  him  detailed information on the  incident  and  how  to restrategise to curtail Boko Haram’s  activities.

No statement was issued after the closed-door meeting that took place just as the Borno State Government imposed a 24-hour curfew on the city.

Badeh under whose territory the attack occurred told State House correspondents  in Abuja that only the CDS could talk on behalf of all the service chiefs.

When approached , Ibrahim simply said, “It (the situation) is being managed” as he briskly walked into his car.

• The affected areas and destroyed property

The insurgents burnt down the Bukumkutu Police Station and razed two vehicles parked on the premises.
They  also  destroyed   20 buildings and 30 vehicles  in the 333 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army  and torched  aircraft parked in the 72 Composite Group of the Nigerian Air Force in the city.

At the Western end of the city, they   set  ablaze  five filling stations ,   20 petrol tankers and trucks. A trailer park was also attacked by them.

An uncounted number of cars were  burnt in the area  by the insurgents, who allegedly lost three of their colleagues there.

  Residents of the Air-Force base said soldiers and policemen were however able to  repel  the insurgents.
“We saw  several vehicles of the insurgents up in flames.  Some had  corpses of people burnt inside, while some  were with  slit throats,” one of them  claimed.

Another  security source  had told one of our correspondents that the  terrorists  carried out the attack on the air force base  by exploding multiple Improvised Explosive Devices.

According to the source,   the  IEDs  were planted  where the military aircraft were parked.

At   Moduganari, Bulumkutu and Ngomari settlements, residents  said both soldiers and the terrorists died  in the confrontation.

“We saw military aircraft in  the sky around 4am,” said Mukhtar Aliyu, a trader who went to Maiduguri Monday Market before the imposition of the curfew.

A resident of 777 Housing Estate  told  journalists that many other civilians  had to flee  to avoid being caught up in the attack.

The resident, who  gave his name simply as  AbdulRahman, said the insurgents overran the  Artillery barracks and from there, they  proceeded to other parts of the town.

• Shettima assesses destruction level

Governor   Kashim Shettima, who almost shed tears while assessing the level of  destruction, said  no amount of  threat  by   Boko Haram  would  make the people of the state to  flee their homeland. He said the   people  had  decided to either suppress the insurgents or be killed.

Shettima  said, “This is our land and  we are going nowhere. We are going to flourish or perish here.”
The governor, who was briefed by the state Commissioner of Police, Lawal Tanko, on the destruction of the Bulumkutu Police Station,  added,   “The good news to me is that no policeman lost his life. We are going to replace the lost vehicles.”

Shettima said though many things were destroyed by the sect members, he was  also pleased   that  no death was recorded in the attack on the  military facilities.

The governor’s enthusiasm was however dampened  when his attention was  drawn  to the attack on a private residence where the sect members killed two brothers  shortly after  the  5.15am Muslim prayer.

A member of the  family told the governor, “We were in our home at about 5.20am when some  gunmen after calling people to prayer in the mosque just opposite came in and  asked  the head of the family to bring out the key of a  pick-up   parked in front of the house.

“He told them that  his   friend who  parked the van left with the key. But  they slaughtered him and went into the shop in front of the house where his brother was sleeping and equally slaughtered him.”

The governor  almost shed  tears when the surviving  family  members prepared the corpses for burial.

At the  33 Artillery Regiment  where  about 20 blocks  and  30 vehicles  were torched, the soldiers were said to have fled   when they  were overwhelmed  by the superior fire power of the terrorists.

Journalists and some government officials who were in company with the governor on the visit to the 79 Composite Group of the NAF were turned back.

 Some of the  governor’s aides that were allowed  into the base,  came back with tales that it  was  almost totally destroyed by the insurgents who burnt down     aircraft  parked on the premises.

• Curfew in Maiduguri

The state government, in a  statement  by  its  secretary   , Baba Ahmed Jidda, said  the 24-hour  curfew  would be lifted  as soon as the situation improved.

The statement reads in part, “The Borno State Government in consultation with the GOC 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maj.- General Obida Ethan, has decided to impose a 24-hour curfew on Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and its  environs, starting from 11am today (Monday).

“The imposition of the curfew is necessitated by an attack on  Maiduguri by people suspected to be Boko Haram members in the early hours of today (Monday).

“During the period of the curfew, Borno State Government pleads with all citizens to remain calm an law-abiding until the situation is put under control as the security agencies will do everything possible to preserve lives and property of the citizenry.

“Only vehicles on emergency call and essential services are allowed to move during the period.”

One of our  correspondents learnt that passengers at  the Maiduguri  airport were asked to return to their  homes.

Sources at FAAN and the Federal Ministry of Aviation,  said although  the Airforce base came under intense attack, “no passenger plane was burnt by the sect.”

The spokesperson for aviation parastatals under the ministry, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said, “There was no attack on the airport. We have closed down the airport and since the state is under state of emergency, the military has taken charge. The information available to me now states that there was no attack on  the airport.”
Meanwhile, heavy security presence was seen at the NAIA , Abuja on Monday.

Before Monday’s incident  in Maiduguri, the NAIA had witnessed intense security presence  following rumours of possible attack by the Islamist sect.

On November 21, The PUNCH exclusively reported how hundreds of travellers and airport users were stuck in a gridlock caused by armed soldiers conducting a search on motorists at the toll-gate of the NAIA.
It was also gathered that security operatives were asked to be on the  red alert, especially at the airports as the Yuletide approaches. This was in respect of the rush and increase in air travels during the season.

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