Premium Times (Abuja)

10 August 2014

Nigeria: Army Colonel Missing As Nigerian Military Clash With Boko Haram in Gwoza

The Nigeria Army has made an unsuccessful attempt to re-claim Gwoza in Borno State from the extremist Boko Haram sect, residents and security sources say.

The Nigerian Army 213 Battalion, Operation Task Force Mike and 234 Battalion, based in Mubi, Adamawa state, who engaged Boko Haram members in a fierce gun battle retreated and fled Gwoza town, the residents said.

Gwoza has been in the hands of Boko Haram militants for three days now since they first invaded the town, killing over 100 civilians and soldiers.

"The soldiers were reported to have been led into the battle by Lieutenant Bayedi Martins and Lt. Colonel Agu of the 234 Battalion, formerly Special Operations Battalion (SOB). They had to retreat when they ran into stiff resistance from the militants as they advanced on Gwoza from Madagali," said a security source who pleaded anonymity, on Saturday.

The source said Mr. Agu has not been found.

According to the source, "The soldiers retreated but the militants set off in hot pursuit, chased them and snatched one of their tanks as well as the driver of the tank. They then called the soldier's wife and informed her that her husband was in captivity.

"We are expecting the corpses of about five gallant soldiers that were killed during the encounter to arrive here today Saturday," the source said.

Local sources in Madagali said about 30 Hilux pick up vans were used to bring several wounded and dead soldiers back to Mubi in Adamawa.

It is the second time in 24 hours that Nigerian soldiers were defeated by Boko Haram in an attempt to reclaim Gwoza. The army had recently reclaimed Damboa, also in Borno, after over two weeks of Boko Haram overrunning and planting its flag in the town.

Army sources confirmed that about three military alpha jets were deployed to the area to assist in the rescue of soldiers who might be trapped in mountains surrounding Gwoza.

The army spokesperson, Chris Olukolade, could not be immediately reached for comments as calls to his phones were unsuccessful.

Refugees

The dreaded Boko Haram sect have laid siege on the entire Gwoza local government headquarters for nearly four days now causing over 10,000 displaced residents to flee to neighbouring Adamawa and Cameroon.

Hundreds others are still stranded on hilltops and continue to lack access to food or water, emergency and local officials have confirmed.

In a telephone interview, the North East zonal coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mohammad Kanar, confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES.

"I can confirm to you that over 10,000 displaced Gwoza residents have fled to neighbouring Adamawa and Cameroon republic.

"As I am talking to you now, hundreds are on their way to Madagali in Adamawa state and some parts of Cameroon. We are now working assiduously in conjunction with the neighbouring state to assist the fleeing residents," he said.

He said some parts of Gwoza, especially behind the rocky mountain that borders Cameroon had been taken over by Boko Haram, who sacked the residents and hoisted their flag.

Also, the Chairman of Madagali local government area in Adamawa, James Watharda, said "Gwoza residents have continued trooping in and for now over 7,000 have since arrived".

The local council is making arrangement to come to their plight, he added.

"We are therefore calling on NEMA and other relevant authorities to assist, because the scope of their needs is beyond local government council,"Mr. Watharda said.

A fleeing resident, Ahmad Musa, who claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the residents by the Boko Haram sect, said the terrorists killed adults and children by either slaughtering or shooting them.

Mr. Musa, added that the Chief Imam of Gwoza was attacked in his house and slaughtered right before his family members who later took to their heels.

The insurgents were also said to have slit the throat of a serving councillor, Hon. Saleh, of Kuranabasa Ward, as well as his three children.

There are reports that many corpses still litter the streets of Gwoza town.

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