There was hardly a dry eye in sight Wednesday when the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, watched over the internment of 33 bodies of victims who were killed in Konduga, Borno State, on Tuesday by suspected Boko Haram insurgents. It was gathered that before the governor's arrival, 18 bodies had already been buried at one of the wards, Madarari, in the town, while two other corpses were seen lying unattended to on the streets during the tour of the town by the governor.
Owing to the attack by members of the terrorist sect, residents were seen fleeing the town with their belongings. The insurgents, who razed about 80 per cent of buildings in the town during the attack, were alleged to have killed over 100 residents in the early evening siege. They were also alleged to have abducted 25 teenage girls from the town in the siege that went on for four hours between 4 pm and 8 pm.
The insurgents, who were over 200 in number, according to eyewitnesses, stormed the town in 39 Toyota Hilux vehicles, armed with sophisticated weapons which included rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), assault riffles and explosive devices. The residents of the town, who claimed that the soldiers and the volunteer youth vigilante group were overpowered by the insurgents, lamented that they were left at the mercy of the assailants who killed at will and destroyed their houses with explosives. Among the buildings destroyed included the central mosque, the district head's palace, and Abba Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies, which was almost levelled by explosives.
A resident of the town, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to journalists, said: "About seven gunmen came, they stood in my front, with one of the three pointing his rifle while the others were shooting sporadically, even as they threw explosive at the houses." According to him, two persons, including a boy, were felled by their bullets in the attack, which he claimed he narrowly escaped. One Alhaji Ibrahim also told journalists that goods were burnt at the market as the shops were attacked with explosives.
Ibrahim said the insurgents came at around 4 pm, adding: "We saw so many vehicles coming, the soldiers exchanged fire with them, but they (soldiers) later fled when they were overpowered. The Civilian JTF was 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 several residents were preoccupied with fleeing the town.
He also disclosed that the insurgents were dressed in military camouflage but were veiled in turbans which differentiated them from the soldiers who wore helmets. Another resident, Iya Kaka, who was in tears when he spoke to journalists, said: "Boko Haram came to our houses, we have been living peacefully, they came at about 4pm and destroyed everything. Our children are scattered and we do not know if they are alive or dead." Another resident and a teacher in the town, Yana Kwada, who had burns all over him, said from his hiding place, which was razed by the insurgents, he saw them abducting five teenage girls from the market.
He added that he saw another group of insurgents who had abducted 20 teenage girls from schools - Government Girls Secondary School and Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies - for onward movement to their camps believed to be in the forest. After the incident, Konduga showed signs of total devastation, with houses that were burnt to the ground from the raging inferno ignited by the explosives. Similarly, several domestic animals were roasted by the fire.
It was further gathered that the hospital in the town was besieged by the insurgents who took time out to treat some of their injured colleagues and subsequently carted away medical supplies. They were said to have also abducted a doctor from the hospital. Shettima, who led a large delegation of his aides and commissioners to the town could not control his emotions, as he burst into tears during the prayer for the bodies that were being interred at the partially destroyed central mosque.
After regaining control of his emotions, the governor subsequently ordered that food items should be immediately brought to feed the people. He directed his Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to release N100 million for the purchase of building materials and food items. After issuing the directives, he said: "Security or no security, I am ready to stay with my people. Whoever wishes to go anywhere can do that but I will remain with Borno people and share their pain.
"Nobody should bring the suggestion that any part of the state is not safe for me to go to. I am ready to face the problem with my people and together we will find solution to it. Whatever resources it will take to build the houses, I will spend it." Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has moved into Konduga to establish camps for internally displaced persons.
The agency, in a press statement issued by the North-east Zonal Information Officer, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, said: "The zonal office received the reports from the Nigerian Red Cross on the occurrence of attacks on Tuesday, 11th February, 2014 at around 5 pm 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."
Ibrahim said: "According to some residents, the gunmen were said to be in large numbers, with very sophisticated weapons such as guns, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), etc. "An assessment has been carried out and the registration of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) people has begun. Basic relief items will soon be delivered."