Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Gwoza Under Siege - Boko Haram Kills 300, Wipes Out Three Villages

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Boko Haram

No fewer than 300 villagers were reportedly killed in three communities around Gwoza local government area of Borno State on Monday as gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram but fully kitted in military fatigue uniform attacked them, eyewitnesses and security operatives said.

A few villagers in Danjara, Agapalwa and Antagara who managed to escape the attack are currently taking refuge in the rocky Gwoza hills, while others mostly women and children who were spared by the attackers have found their way into Cameroonian territory.

A state lawmaker representing the region, Peter Biye, told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that "they (Boko Haram) opened fire on villagers and burned houses and churches to the ground". Dozens of people were killed in each attack, he said, but he could not give precise figures.

Andrew Tada, an indigene of Attagara who lives in Maiduguri, the state capital, told the BBC that he lost two cousins in the attack, noting that residents had told him they were preparing to bury 45 people from that village alone.

"It is very sad and the villages are deserted now; we are just asking government to give us security to go there tomorrow (today) to evacuate the corpses for burial," Tada said.

Impeccable sources who saw it all told LEADERSHIP that the gunmen that attacked the villages pretended to be soldiers who had come to protect them from further attacks, but when the fake soldiers managed to gather all the villagers at the centre of the village in Antagara, they opened fire on them, killing hundreds and injuring several others.

"They came in military Hilux vans, and we all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us; when they came in over 10 Hilux vehicles we all felt relieved that, at last, the military had arrived. So we went to them and they told us that 'we are soldiers and we are here to protect you all'. They then urged all of us to converge at a particular spot at the centre of the village; we all complied. But when they saw that a sizeable number of us had converged, they began to shout 'Allahu-Akbar, Allahu-Akbar' on top of their voices, then they began to fire at the people

continuously for a very long time until all that gathered were dead," said a community leader who would not say his name for fear of his safety. "I lost four of my blood brothers in the massacre. I was lucky to escape because I was not very close by when the gunmen started shooting at our people. I was going round to inform people that the soldiers had come and they wanted to address us. I managed to escape through villages in Adamawa State and later made it to Maiduguri".

The source said while the gunmen were killing the villagers in the three villages, some others who were riding on motorcycles lay in ambush outside the villages and continued to pick on the fleeing villagers.

"When some of the villagers managed to escape, they were unfortunately waylaid outside the villages by some gunmen on motorcycles who would catch and slaughter the men and young boys; they only allowed women and children to go," said the source.

The source added that Boko Haram gunmen had for over a month now hoisted flags in attacked villages like Ashigashiya and Chinene, but each time they ran to the military to report their plights, "the military personnel in Gwoza would say they have not been given order to go to that area; even when they are hearing the sounds of their guns, they really don't care".

"But on Monday, when we went to tell the soldiers that we got information that the insurgents would be coming to attack us, they assured us to go back and that they would come to join us in the village. That was why we thought that those that came to attack us were soldiers, because they came in military Hilux and they were all dressed like soldiers. But it turned out that they came out to massacre us."

The source said, "Corpses still litter everywhere in the villages and in the bush; some women whose husbands were killed before their eyes had to return to dig shallow graves to bury their husbands so that their bodies would not be preyed upon by vultures or wild animals. I can confidently tell you that over 300 persons have been killed."

He added: "As we are talking now, some of the escaped villagers who are trapped up in the mountains said they still see the gunmen going about attacking villages and hamlets by setting them on fire.

"More than 1,000 homes in the three villages have been burnt to ashes, and they are still attacking more and more. We are worried if the federal government has forsaken us as citizens; if they have not, then, why are the soldiers yet to go and help us fight these insurgents that have destroyed our community, destroyed our farmlands, destroyed our pride and destroyed our future?"

A top security officer in Maiduguri, who didn't mention his because he is not allowed to speak directly to the press on this matter, confirmed the incident in Gwoza, even as he said there was a move by the military to deploy soldiers to go and secure the women and children.

"I am aware of the attack in Gwoza, which is another bad case, but I believe the military is doing something towards going there to rescue the women and children," said the security source.

Borno State governor Kashim Shettima was in Gwoza last Saturday to attend the burial of the late Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, who was killed by Boko Haram gunmen while on his way to attend the burial of the Emir of Gombe, Shehu Abubakar, who died after a brief illness in London.

Gwoza came under fire after the departure of the governor, who was able to make his trip there under tight security.

The senator representing Southern Borno, Muhammed Ali Ndume, whose home town is Gwoza, was seen going forth and back the Government House in Maiduguri where he was meeting with the governor on ways to send help to the embattled people of his country home.

When contacted by LEADERHSIP on phone, the senator confirmed that his country home was under siege.

Ndume: "About six wards of Gwoza local government are under siege; the insurgents had taken over these communities and sacked virtually everyone out of their homes; many had ran into Cameroon; many had been killed, their homes burnt down. Of all the villagers and hamlets that are in Gwoza East, which comprises six wards, only Gava town is not affected for now.

"We have had a meeting with the governor and the GOC; and the GOC has assured us that troops would be sent there immediately to go rescue the situation; the Borno State governor had given the military all the needed logistics at his disposal to assist them go rescue the villages, especially where the insurgents were said to have hoisted flags.

"It is sad that we have to wait till now that people are being killed for government to take action; we know that for long the road to Gwoza from Maiduguri had been a no-go area even for the soldiers. It is a known fact that soldiers of the Nigerian Army have been overstretched in both human and material capacity; the federal government has to rise to the occasion to give these soldiers the needed support to work.

"Two major federal government bridges leading to Gwoza have been bombed and no one seemed concerned about this."

Boko Haram kills 400 -Vigilante Chairman

The chairman of a local vigilante group set up to combat the militants, Abba Aji Khalil has disclosed that suspected members of the Boko Haram have killed about 400 peoplein three villages in Gwoza, Bloomberg reports.

The online also quoted Khalil as saying that some of the attackers, who disguised in military uniforms, raided the villages yesterday, using "sophisticated weapons" and "started killing from house to house." Yuguda Ndurvua, a local clergyman, said many villages in the area "are being attacked almost on a daily basis."

Niger dislodges suspicious group

The Niger State government has dislodged an Islamic group, Madinatu Muheenu Hamdallah Nibrassiya Huda from a camp in Lapai, Lapai Local government area of the state.

The camp of the Islamic group located in a forest near Lapai town has no fewer than 240 people, mostly young men and women.

The combined team of security officers in the state led by Lt. Col Adamu Yakubu dislodged the members of the group residing there and destroyed the camp made up of over 30 thatched-roof houses built with straw.

It was gathered that the decision of the government to quickly dislodge the camp was informed by the report that the group's teachings contravened conventional Islamic practice.

To avoid a repetition of Boko Haram, the state government, it was gathered, decided to set up a special task force to dislodge the group and evacuate the members to their various towns.

The Etsu Lapai, Engrr Umaru Bago Tafida, lent his support to the action of the state government, adding that "if no action is taken now, the sect will grow to become a terror that will consume all".

The secretary to the state government, Hon. Idris Ndako Idris Kpaki, represented by the permanent secretary, security matters, Office of the SSG, Mr James Kolo, told journalists during the evacuation of the group's members to their various local government areas in the state that the members of the group illegally occupied a total of 208.88 hectares of land.

He said that the group has been operating since 2008 indoctrinating innocent followers who now believe in Sheikh Mohammad Abubakar, the head of the group.

All efforts made by journalists to get the spiritual leader of the group, Mohammed Abubakar, to speak to journalists proved abortive but he referred journalists to the group's spokesman, Sheik Yusuf Usman.

Sheik Usman however denied all the allegations made against the group, saying that the group had confined itself to teaching and propagation of Islam as stipulated by the Quran.

Usman distanced the group from the activities of Boko Haram: "We have nothing to do with Boko Haram. We don't share same belief and have nothing in common. Boko Haram has no agenda but destruction while we are peaceful Islamic scholars and farmers."

Nigeria will overcome its challenges - Welby

The archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend Justin Welby, has assured that Nigeria would overcome its numerous challenges.

The cleric gave the assurance shortly after a closed-door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa yesterday in Abuja.

"Nigeria is a country which I have profound respect and deep love for. I am deeply grieved by what is happening but God is faithful.

"The country has so much going for it but God is always faithful to us and, as Christians, in Jesus Christ we believe in his faithfulness and we can trust him for the future," he said.

Welby condemned the activities of the insurgents in the country, adding that he was in the country to condole and pray with the president.

"The bombing in Jos was deeply disheartening because I know Jos very well. I came to pray with His Excellency and express our condolence for the losses.

"God is faithful. In one of the letters that Paul wrote to the church, he talked about the sufferings they were going through being known throughout the world.

"That is exactly the truth here because the suffering in Nigeria is known throughout the world and people throughout the world pray for the country," he said. "I do not have words to describe the good potential this country has. There is great difficulty at the moment but it is a country with such enormous potential."

"I think Nigerians by nature are joyful, hopeful and vigorous; they work hard," he said, adding that he got the assurance from Jonathan that the administration had taken a multidimensional approach to resolve the challenges facing the country.

Chibok abduction: Women ministry holds interfaith national prayers

The minister of women affairs and social development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, yesterday led inter-faith national prayers to call for the release of abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

At the event in Abuja, the minister also called for an end to all forms of terrorism and violence, saying in such situations, women and children were the worst hit.

Maina said the prayer session became necessary as a show of concern for the plight of the abducted girls, adding that nothing was impossible with prayers.

"It is pertinent to note that the emerging threats to our national security and unity have motivated this response.

"We strongly believe in the efficacy of prayers to God on behalf of our girls and for the restoration of peace and harmony in our nation."

She said the present administration was resolute and committed to promoting education, saying it was a tool for national development.

The minister welcomed the present administration's' Safer School Initiative, saying security and stability was necessary for any meaningful development.

She added that security was a collective effort of all Nigerians, saying all hands must be on deck to achieve this goal.

Dr Israel Akanji, FCT president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), stressed the need for all Nigerians to remember those in bondage.

He said that although the situation looked hopeless, help was coming the way of the kidnapped girls, adding that confusion would soon set in the camp of the abductors.

"Those who have taken these children should know that they cannot close the gates of heaven. "Light will shine upon darkness, the power of God will come down, and the girls will come back to us straight, "Akanji said.

Boko Haram threatens to attack Kaduna village

Residents of Gwantu village in Sanga local government area of Kaduna State now live in perpetual fear over a purported letter said to have been written by the Boko Haram sect to carry out an attack on them.

According to a competent source from the area, the letter was picked by the chief of the area, Gambo Makama, in his compound. He later summoned a security meeting.

It was also gathered that the chief has relocated his family to another village, again for fear of attack by Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, the communities have organized a vigilante group which now works round the clock to protect the area against the planned attack.

When the chief and the chairman of the local government, Emmanuel Adamu, were called on their mobile phones, they failed to pick the calls, just as the commissioner of women affairs who hails from the area did not pick her calls too.

When the Kaduna State police public relation officer, SP Aminu Lawan, was contacted, he said he was not aware of the letter but confirmed that the police were aware of the threat, adding that investigation was already ongoing.

Nigerians must unite to fight terrorism - IBB

Former military president General Ibrahim Babangida yesterday said the security challenge in the country demands collective action from all Nigerians.

Babangida made this known during a condolence visit to the people and government of Gombe over the death of Alhaji Shehu Abubakar, the Emir of Gombe.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that former military head of state Gen. Muhammadu Buhari also visited the state to condole with the people.

Babangida, who addressed journalists after the visit, said the security challenges in the northern part of the country demand that all Nigerians unite to address the problem.

"This problem is our problem. Every Nigerian irrespective of religion, tribe, age, has a role to play, and the sooner we begin to play those roles the better for Nigeria," he said.

The former president, who led special prayers during the visit, condoled with the government and people of Gombe for the loss.

Babangida said the Emir's death was a loss not only to the people of Gombe but the country at large.

He called on other traditional rulers and Nigerians in general to emulate the virtues of the late monarch.

Buhari, who spoke at the palace, said he had cordial relationship with the late Emir, and prayed that God should grant the people the fortitude to bear the loss.

Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, who received the former leaders, thanked them for identifying with the state during this period of sadness.

Okupe's comment meant to manipulate presidential committee's report on Chibok - Borno Govt

The Borno State government has said that the "newest conspiracy theory" propounded by Dr Doyin Okupe, coming just when the Presidential Fact-finding Committee on Abducted Schoolgirls in Chibok is rounding off its assignment and possibly writing its report, is a clever design aimed at manipulating the committee's report, given the feelers that facts on ground do not favour the Presidency's desperate plot to pronounce a major victim guilty as speculated, the Borno State government has said.

Okupe, the senior special assistant to the president on public affairs, had at a BBC discussion programme, "Hard Talk", aired on Tuesday, alleged that only God, Governor Shettima, Borno's commissioner for education and principal of the affected school know the truth of what happened in Chibok, saying that all of them gave different accounts of what happened on April 14, 2014, when over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram.

But in a statement made available to online media Dailypost, the special adviser to Governor Shettima on media, Isa Gusau, said: "One must suspect and indeed question Okupe's rather calculated remarks at a time the fact-finding committee on Chibok abduction set up by the Presidency Okupe works for is rounding off its assignment after speaking with virtually all relevant stakeholders with the highest point being visits and interactive sessions with officials of Borno State government in Maiduguri as well as parents, school authorities and students of the affected school.

"One would expect that the committee is writing its report by now and, given the facts already in public domain, it is clear that the likes of Okupe are jittery that the findings are unlikely to be what they had wickedly presumed, hence they say things that will manipulate and mislead members of the Presidential Committee.

"Okupe knows very well that, on the night the president met with the governor, the commissioner of education and the principal, the commissioner of police and DPO of Chibok were also there in connection with fact-finding by the president. So, why did Okupe deliberately keep out the police in his innuendos? He was being clever by half.

"He kept out the police because he must have seen the letter written by Borno State government to the police prior to the attack; he also knows what the police DPO told the president the night they met. Okupe also knows that exonerating the police is keeping out the Presidency out of his innuendos.

"For God's sake, the president set up a high-powered fact-finding committee. The committee must have, by now, found the facts. Why wouldn't the Presidency trust its own committee and allow it to present its findings? Why is Okupe saying all these things to create yet confusion just when the Committee is rounding off and, very likely, writing its report?

"It is to be expected that someone like Dr Doyin Okupe probably regrets the establishment of that committee and hence the late-minute desperation. Not only Okupe seemed involved in the last-minute attempt. The minister of information was also all over the media saying all kinds of falsehoods all in a combined effort to manipulate the fact-finding report."

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