Gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram killed an unspecified number of people on Thursday in Damboa town of Damboa local government area of Borno State, residents and officials said yesterday. The attack, which began Thursday evening, lasting into Friday morning, saw many homes destroyed, including that of the caretaker chairman and the chief imam of the town, a local official in Damboa, who preferred anonymity, disclosed.
Dozens of insurgents with assault rifles and explosives took over the town. The source said shops, sheds, tents of traders, commercial and private vehicles and other personal properties of the residents were also vandalised by the assailants. Distraught residents believe that Boko Haram's recent focus on Damboa is a deliberate move to completely wipe the town off the map.
Damboa is 85km to Maiduguri along Biu road and the latest onslaught is just one in the series of attacks on the farming community which is now in ruins.
Another official told Weekly Trust that the attackers had a field day in Damboa because both soldiers and police have deserted the community for over two weeks.
It can be recalled that when the assailants attacked the military battalion in Damboa two weeks ago, they reportedly lost 53 of their members but succeeded in killing 16 soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of the battalion, Lt. Col. Shonva, as well as some policemen and their Divisional Police Officer (DPO).
It was gathered that hundreds of villagers fled into the bush during the latest attack while those who could not resigned to fate. Abu Musa, a trader from Damboa, who fled to Maiduguri, said the attackers used many explosives in destroying the town. "They (attackers) came when we were about to break our fast and started shooting. Many of us did not eat anything throughout the night," he said, adding that the insurgents targeted everything and everyone in the town.
Abbas Gava, a vigilante leader in Maiduguri, said his men and other youth in Damboa had a hard time trying to assist people. "It is only the vigilantes that are there and we know their limitations. The death casualty could be very high because my contacts said they are still picking and piling the corpses, but many houses, nearly half of what remains in the town, have been burnt," Gava said.
Troops have made attempts to return to Damboa military base last week but were ambushed twice by Boko Haram insurgents, forcing them to return to Maiduguri. The insurgents have also bombed a major bridge along Damboa-Biu road, making it very difficult for motorists to pass through and nearly impossible for heavy vehicles to cross.
Disturbed by the development, elders from Damboa yesterday visited the palace of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai Al Amin El Kanemi, where they called on him to assist them. Their spokesman, Alhaji Kaumi Damboa, said the Shehu should alert relevant authorities that there is humanitarian crisis in Damboa and surrounding communities. "Something urgent needs to be done. We want the federal government to please deploy troops and modern equipment to save our people," he said.
In his response, the Shehu condoled with the people of Damboa and other places over the live s lost and urged them to intensify prayers for Allah to intervene. A senior security official in Maiduguri confirmed the attack in Damboa but declined to give casualty figures.