Thousands of Nigerian citizens were feared trapped on Wednesday after Boko Haram fighters attacked two local government areas in northern Borno and held control without immediate pushback from the military, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The insurgents attacked Gubio and Magumeri local government areas - about 50 kilometres apart - between morning and evening on Wednesday, and have maintained a grip on them a day later, military sources said. The two local government areas have a combined population of almost 300,000 inhabitants.
In Gubio, the insurgents operated for several hours from 5:30 p.m. Wednesday until 2:00 a.m. Thursday without any resistance, carting away drugs, food items, fuel and other valuables, PREMIUM TIMES.
"The military patrol vehicles from Damasak at that time abandoned the populace to their fate," sources said.
Another team of terrorists operating near Gubio also moved from their base to Magumeri, about 50 kilometres south, raiding the local government area and traumatising its population.
The insurgents arrived Magumeri town, the local government headquarters, and set ablaze the local government secretariat, a public health clinic, community leaders' houses, vehicles used by NGOs and telecommunication masts.
"It is not clear what they intend to do with the people," a military source said.
The terrorists, mostly of the Boko Haram ISWA affiliate, have remained in control of Gubio, Magumeri and contiguous communities, controlling large swathes of northern Borno where the military has largely pulled out amidst relentless deadly attacks on troops and their bases.
The attack comes barely days after Boko Haram fighters attacked the Nigerian Army 5 Brigade in Gubio, killing four soldiers. The military relocated the entire brigade from Gubio following the attack, and no contingent arrangement was immediately put in place to secure its population.
A senior military source who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES after the August 10 attack expressed fears that the entire stretch between Maiduguri to Damasak, spanning over 160 kilometres, had been left without military presence and may be vulnerable to attacks.
Villagers in Gubio were keen on moving out of the community after the brigade was closed, but the state governor, Babagana Zulum, asked them to remain there because security measures had been improved, Daily Trust reported. But thousands have fled, nonetheless,
Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai later sanctioned the commanders overseeing the brigade, but security analysts recognised the war situation was too dire for cosmetic interventions.
Sagir Musa, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, did not comment on the sack of 5 Brigade. He also declined multiple requests for comments on the latest seizures of Gubio and Magumeri by terrorists.