Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Survivors of Maiduguri Attacks Tell Tales of Horror

Maiduguri — SOME survivors and residents of Maiduguri, Borno State capital, yesterday, recounted their experience and narrow escape from death, when about 300 Boko Haram insurgents armed with sophisticated weapons invaded the state capital targeting military formations and police stations, Monday.

Narrating his ordeal, Mallam Yakubu Gashua, who resides few metres away from the destroyed 79 Composite Group, Nigerian Air force Base, NAF, said: "I thought my days on earth was over on that day.

"My wife and I were in bed and all of a sudden, I started hearing heavy sounds of gunshots, as if it was in my compound. We immediately woke up and started reciting some protective verses in the Quran.

"The gunshots became more intense with ceaseless explosions all over the place.

"At a point I told my wife and my uncle, who came from Gashua for a visit, that our days have ended.

"I said, who is going to take care of my two little children who are still writing their exams in a boarding school in Damaturu, the Yobe state capital? But thank Allah for sparing all of us."

A neighbour of the two slain brothers that lived opposite the NAF main gate, which was the first port of call of the terrorists, said that the attackers, who arrived the base around 4am, called for Subhi prayers in a nearby mosque before they started chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great).

"The terrorists entered the compound and saw a Toyota hilux loaded with bags of beans, and they asked my deceased neighbour to provide the keys of the loaded vehicle to them.

"When he said the keys were with the driver somewhere else, they immediately opened fire on him. His brother was ambushed at his patent medicine store around 7am a few metres away from the NAF main gate and was killed."

Another resident close to the NAF base said: "When I heard a strange voice close to our mosque, I asked myself who are these people calling for Subhi prayers?

"I peeped outside just to see what was happening, and when I discovered that the voice is a strange one, I quickly went back home.

"Later, we went to the mosque and performed our prayers with my deceased neighbours who were killed after the prayers."

'We hid in a septic tank'

Narrating how his two neighbours were killed in their house, he said: "We didn't know that the terrorists were the ones calling for the Subhi prayers.

"We performed our pre-dawn prayers successfully and as we were about to enter our house, we started hearing the sounds of gunfire, explosives and bombs inside the NAF premises.

"The sound of the explosives was even shaking our houses, which now have cracks after the multiple explosions inside the NAF Base.

"In fact, I had to quickly hide myself with my wife and two of my little children inside an abandoned soak-away toilet in the compound for over two hours."

Mallam Abba Usman, who resides in Mwaramti village, opposite the 33 Artillery Regiments, which was not left out of the devastating attacks, said: "The terrorists were very active and brave, as they stopped and picked dead bodies of their members."

The attacks took Maiduguri residents by surprise. The area, which is the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency had in the past six months witnessed relative peace following the emergence of vigilante youths, popularly addressed as Civilian JTF, as well as the successful destruction of their operational base in Bullabulin Nganaram, a suburb of Maiduguri.

Intelligence report ignored

Although, unconfirmed reports said there was an intelligent report made available to the security operatives in the state that Book Haram terrorists were advancing towards Maiduguri city from the Sambisa Game Reserve Forests and that if it is true, the attacks will be deadly, the security agencies allegedly ignored it.

The attacks were said to have been coordinated and led by two women commanders, leading to the death of several people including the terrorists and security agents.

Nigerian Air Force Base offices, staff quarters, club house and five aircraft were completely burnt down.

Residents said what happened in Maiduguri, a city which had witnessed relative peace for the past six months calls for serious concern of government and the people of Borno State.

During the attacks, residential buildings such as semi-detached bedroom flats and offices with staff quarters newly built by the Borno State Government at the 33 Artillery Regiment base were completely razed by the terrorists.

The area accommodates hundreds of JTF operatives and the Divisional Police Station in Gomari Airport Ward of the metropolis and 50 military vehicles .

Fighter jet intervenes

Vanguard gathered that but for the intervention of the jet fighter from Yola, Adamawa State capital, the casualty figures at the NAF base would have been higher.

The jet assisted in dislodging the terrorists, who fled towards Beneshiekh-Damaturu Federal Highway.

Spokesman of the 7 Division, Colonel Mohammed Dole confirmed the multiple attacks and killings by the terrorists.

In a press statement, Dole said: "In the early hours of Monday December 2, Boko Haram terrorists attempted to gain access to military locations in Maiduguri metropolis.

"However, troops of the 7 Division, Nigerian Army, have successfully repelled the insurgents and afflicted serious casualties on them.

"The situation around Jimtilo and Maiduguri International Airport General areas are now calm and under control. Our troops supported by Nigerian Air force aircrafts are presently pursuing the terrorists towards the Maiduguri-Beneshiekh- Damaturu road.

"Members of the general public are requested to remain calm and comply with the 24 hours curfew imposed by the Borno State Government. The curfew will be reviewed periodically as the situation improves."

In the interview with journalists at the Government House, Colonel Dole, who did not give further details on the number of casualties from the side of the military or the terrorists, insisted that military troops were able to inflict serious casualties on the terrorists.

Sources at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital said, they saw several dead bodies in military and police uniforms being conveyed to the mortuary in the morning of the day of the attacks, but could not know whether they were real security agents, as the terrorists also used military and police uniforms during attacks.

APC reacts

Meanwhile, All Progressives Congress, APC, has condemned Monday's deadly attack on military and other facilities in Maiduguri, saying it was shocked and saddened by the enormity of the attack and the death of innocent civilians.

In a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday, by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the attacks on Nigerian Air Force planes and helicopters at the NAF base in the city was particularly disturbing, considering the hitherto effective use of aerial attacks against Boko Haram, which is widely believed to have carried out the attacks.

It said nothing in the world can justify such deadly attacks on the military and the collateral deaths and damages inflicted on civilians.

APC, however, called for a renewed strategy to combat the sect, which seems to retain the capacity to carry out such a massive attack in a major city, despite the successes which the military said it had recorded against it since the declaration of a state of emergency in three states last May.

The party said such a strategy must place great emphasis on the gathering of intelligence, adding that failure of intelligence, more than anything else, made Monday's attack possible.

It called for a probe into how hundreds of attackers could easily infiltrate military facilities, believed to be highly secured.

No foreign aid yet-- FG

The Minister of Information and Supervising Minister of Defence, Mr. Labaran Maku, said yesterday that the Federal Government has not decide on whether to seek the assistance of foreign combatants in the fight against terrorism as the Nigeria Armed Forces was capable of handling insurgency in the country.

Maku, who made government's position known during a press briefing on the 2014 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration, in Abuja, categorically said that the Federal Government was not deterred by the recent attack on the Air Force base in Maiduguri by the insurgent.

He said: "A lot of cooperation has been going on, especially at the ECOWAS level.

"Defence chiefs have strategised to deal with this insurgency. We are working with the international communities.

"The Nigerian Armed Forces are well equipped, trained and they have professional skills to deal with insurgent.

"Although we need cooperation of other countries, but to seek foreign combatants to come into our country, Nigeria has not made that decision."

The minister also said the recent declaration of Boko Haram and Ansaru as terrorist groups by the United States was a further confirmation of what the country had been battling with.

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