At least 200 villagers may have died in Borno State after gunmen believed to be members of the extremist Boko Haram sect, but dressed in military uniforms attacked villages in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, government officials and eyewitnesses have said.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered from reliable sources that the villages of Attagara, Agapalawa and Aganjara, all in Gwoza Local Government Area, were on Monday attacked by gunmen who pretended to be soldiers.
Commenting on the attack, the senator representing the area, Muhammed Ndume, said his constituents were under the siege of the Boko Haram insurgent group.
The residents of these communities had suffered several attacks including the shooting of nine worshippers in a church in Attagara Village during a church service last Sunday. The killing sparked off reprisal from emboldened villagers who chased the attackers and got killed four of them while three others were arrested.
On Monday, while the villagers were mourning the loss of those who died on Sunday, information dribbled around the neighbourhood that the insurgents might attack again.
The villagers said they informed the military personnel in Gwoza town but were not taken seriously, even though the soldiers promised to follow up on the report.
"When the attackers came, most residents of the community actually thought they were military personnel. It didn't occur to them they are Boko Haram. Over 200 corpses are laying in the villages now yet to be buried," said one Ngalamuda Ibrahim, a resident of Gwoza.
Another resident of Attagara whose four younger brothers were killed during the Monday carnage said "they came in military Hilux; and we all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported 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 all dead", said the source who is a community leader but would not say his name for fear of his personal safety.
"I lost four of my blood brothers in the massacre", the source added. "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."
Mr. Ndume, who represents that part of Borno State in the senate, confirmed the incident even though he did not mention the casualty figure.
"We are under siege in Gwoza", said Mr. Ndume, who is also a native of Gwoza local government. "Over six wards of Gwoza local government have been taken over by insurgents, who also mount their flags in those areas.
"We had a meeting with the governor and the GOC (General Officer Commanding of the Nigeria Army 7 Division); and the GOC assured us that troops would be sent there immediately to go rescue the situation; the Borno state governor gave the military all the needed logistics at his disposal to assist them go rescue the villagers, 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," he said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that most of the survivors of the attacks, especially women and children, fled to the neighbouring Cameroon territories as most villages around Gwoza town had either been attacked or sacked by the Boko Haram insurgents.
The attacks on Borno communities have continued despite an emergency rule in place in the state.