There was tension in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, yesterday following credible information that at least 40 members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, among whom were teenage girls, had sneaked into the city with the intention of carrying out suicide bombings.
This was coming days after two separate bomb explosions masterminded by the Boko Haram terrorists rocked the city of Kano during the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.
It has been confirmed that teenage girls were used to ferry the explosions - one in a food flask and the other in a jar meant to contain kerosene - to the point where the explosives were detonated in the Kano State capital.
LEADERSHIP has gathered from different sources that the Boko Haram suicide bombers that had entered Maiduguri were between 30 and 40 in number.
A member of the Civilian-JTF who pleaded anonymity said a suspected member of the Boko Haram who was on Sunday arrested in Maiduguri later confessed that over 40 of them, including two girls, had arrived in the city with the intention of carrying out attacks using explosives.
"We were able to arrest seven of them, and we are still on the trail of about 33 others," said the operative of the Civilian-JTF. "When we interrogated them, they were able to reveal that the girls, just like they did in Kano, would be used to carry bombs tied to their bodies and covered by their hijabs to crowded places where they would be detonated by some other persons holding the remote-controlled detonator. We have tried to make them reveal where others are being kept but have not been successful.
A member of the Nigeria vigilante, Muhammed Gava, confirmed he also had this piece of information. He told LEADERSHIP on phone that a Toyota Hilux bus with the colour of the Nigeria Air Force, and filled with about 20 people including young girls, had on Sunday found its way into Maiduguri.
"The bus had the paint of the Nigeria Air Force and it carried plenty people, about 20 or so, both men and girls, into Maiduguri. It came from the direction of Damboa, and some members of the Civilian-JTF tried to stop it around Polo area but the driver did not stop. And when they later tried to go after the bus, they lost its track; but they are still searching for the bus," said Gava.
The Borno State police command had issued a statement calling on members of the public to beware of ladies covered with hijab and standing by the roadsides or asking to be assisted to find a direction to a particular place, as those ladies might have suicide bombs concealed under their hijabs.
The police did not say if they had information on the arrest of persons who confessed they were coming to the town to cause havoc.
According to the police public relations officer, Gideon Jubrin (DSP), "the Borno State police command wish to congratulate the Muslim faithful on the celebration of the Ei-del-Fitri, which took place without any incident.
"The command however still cautions residents to be wary of strange females wearing hijabs and moving around crowded places as some of them may be hiding explosives in their under garments with the intention of causing harm to unsuspecting residents."
The PPRO said residents who sighted such persons should immediately alert the relevant security operatives for proper action.
A top official of the SSS who spoke off the record confirmed the incident but stated that the rumoured figure of about 30 girls brought to the town was not factual.
According to the officer, "what we have was that a large number of suspected Boko Haram gunmen had invaded the town before and during the Eid celebration with the intention of carrying out suicide bombings using some of the girls they came in with to actualise their evil plan. Some arrests were made, and investigation is still on to fish out others from their hideouts."
Another source at the police headquarters said "some of the girls are said to be camped in hotels, which we could not verify for now; but we are still carefully searching so as not to cause tension in the already tensed town".
The panic over alleged invasion of Boko Haram teenage suicide bombers came at the time the authorities at the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army had announced the easing of the ban on all vehicles today (Wednesday) from 7am.
Residents of Maiduguri celebrated their Eid-el-Fitr walking, following the ban on vehicular movement by the military authority, citing security concerns.
A statement issued by the deputy director, defence information, Colonel Muhammad Dole, on Saturday evening said the ban would last till today, July 30. According to his statement, the Boko Haram had planned to use all kinds of vehicles, including taxis, tricycles and bicycles heavily wired with explosives to cause mayhem during the days of the Eid-el-Fitr celebration.
In a fresh statement signed and issued by Col. Dole yesterday, the military said it had decided to lift the ban by 7am today following the successful celebration of the Eid without the "terrorists carrying out their evil plot to carry out multiple bombings in various parts of the city". The statement urged residents to "be vigilant and alert" and "report any suspicious objects, persons or movement to the relevant agencies".
The fear in Maiduguri now is that the said girls being used for suicide bombing could be some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.
The SSS person who spoke earlier said "it could be possible, because there is nothing these elements would not do to inflict pain on the people; we even understand that some of the girls that were used in the Kano suicide bombing were used as mere courier; theirs was just to carry the explosives either in food flask, jerry can or under their garment, not mindful of what the person holding the remote detonating device would do until they were blown off. It is better the public should be very observant of strange young girls loitering about; they could be the girls we are looking for".
Sect bombs bridge, kills 8 in Yobe
Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram on Monday night used explosives to blow off a bridge and kill at least eight people in a community in Yobe State, eyewitnesses and security operatives said.
The bridge located in Katarko village in Gujba local government area of the state was blown off after the gunmen attacked the area and forced soldiers at a checkpost not quite 300 metres away from the bridge to flee.
A resident of Buniyadi in Gujba local government area, Malam Garba, who confirmed the incident to LEADERSHIP, said the gunmen came to the bridge in their large numbers.
"The soldiers had to flee from the place because they were outnumbered by the attackers who later blew off the bridge," said Garba. "They attacked villagers in Katarko and killed about eight persons who, some of my relatives there told me, are being prepared for burial right now."
The blown-off bridge links Yobe to Biu town in Borno State and could also be used to get to Yola in Adamawa State, said Garba.
The Katarko bridge is the fifth so far blown off by Boko Haram in the past three months.
Abbas Gava, a member of the Nigerian vigilante group, confirmed the incident to LEADERSHIP even as he said "though the rains are not heavy for now and vehicles can still manage to pass under the bridge, but by the time it became heavier, vehicles would not be able to make it across the broken bridge".
A police officer in Yobe State who would not want to be mentioned in this report confirmed the incident to LEADERSHIP. He added that two suspected Boko Haram members were also arrested in Damaturu town while attempting to cause some havoc in the state capital.
Katarko, a small agrarian community, is located some 22km south of Damaturu.
Security operatives, residents flee as Boko Haram takes over Yobe town
Security operatives in Gujba local government area of Yobe State yesterday advised residents to flee for their lives as Boko Haram gunmen who had on Monday night bombed part of a major bridge there returned to attack them again.
A bridge in a town called Katarko was partly bombed on Friday night and about eight people were killed during an attack by Boko Haram gunmen, whose number was said to have overwhelmed that of the soldiers there.
But, as the residents of Katarko, a village not far away from Gujba, returned to mourn their dead ones, the gunmen returned in full force and sacked both the villagers of Katarko and Gulani, who had to flee into the state capital Damaturu.
Gujba is about 45km away from Katarko, and the villagers from the latter community who had fled their homes to the former now had to take to their heels again as the gunmen returned.
Another fleeing resident, Rabiu Buni, who said he made it on foot through the bush path to Damaturu, told LEADERSHIP on phone that the terrorists had succeeded in bombing the bridge for the second time, which now caused the entire frame of the bridge to collapse.
"When they bombed the bridge on Monday night, it only destroyed one side, but they had to bomb it again when they returned this (Tuesday) afternoon," he said.
The gunmen who came in about a dozen vehicles stormed the town about 3pm shooting and setting homes ablaze.
Malam Muhammed, a resident of Gujba, said he was very lucky to escape in his car with his family, but many others especially women and children might not be.
"It was a deadly return that they made today (Tuesday) after the initial attack on Monday; the entire village of Gujba is now deserted as everyone including women and children took to the bush; but the danger is that hardly will many of them make it to Damaturu safely because the bridge is bombed and the attacked village is being surrounded by water, which would make it difficult for women and children to wade through," said Buni.
The influx of the internally displaced persons has so far caused serious tension in Damaturu town, as most of the IDPs were seen wandering helplessly in the streets without knowing anywhere to go.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the military had deployed earthmoving equipment to build emergency sand fortress along the outskirts of Damaturu towards Gujba, 28km away, where soldiers are now waiting to prevent the attackers from invading the state capital.
Military aircraft was hovering over the direction of the attacked village before dusk set in, but it was not certain if the soldiers had mobilised to engage the daring Boko Haram terrorists.
Efforts to get comments from both the police and the military operatives did not yield any result as those contacted declined comments.
Multiple explosions rock Potiskum as scores feared dead
Multiple explosions yesterday rocked the commercial town of Potiskum in Yobe State while scores of people were feared dead.
According to witnesses, the explosions occurred very close to the palace of the Emir of Potiskum at a popular mosque called Kalli Alkali Mosque.
The bombs, believed to have been planted by Boko Haram terrorists, went off in some parts of the town at about 7:30pm when Muslim worshippers were observing the last congregational prayer for the day.
But details of the blasts were sketchy at press time while some of the residents claimed that the casualty figures might be on the high side.