Maiduguri — Normalcy has returned to Gubio and Magumeri local government areas in northern part of Borno State after an attack by Boko Haram insurgents that lasted for several hours, Daily Trust reports.
The insurgents loyal to Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), in their hundreds, attacked Gubio, Magumeri and adjoining hamlets.
They burnt residential homes, schools, offices, looted food items and killed a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), sources confirmed to Daily Trust.
The development reportedly forced hundreds of people including women and children to flee to safety.
But military and civilian officials said yesterday that following operations by troops, the terrorists had retreated while the locals that fled had gone back to their homes.
The Nigerian Army, through the Theatre Command of the Operation Lafiya Dole, said yesterday that its troops had successfully repelled the attacks at Gubio and Magumeri local government areas.
Army spokesman at the Command, Col. Ado Isa, in a statement in Maiduguri yesterday said: "The attention of the Nigerian Army in the Theatre of Operation Lafiya Dole has been drawn to reports on various media platforms indicating attack on Gubio and Magumeri communities in Borno State at about 1735hrs of Wednesday the 21st of August, 2019.
"To avoid further misinformation that could create unnecessary tension, the Theatre Command wishes to state that the attack was targeted at Nigerian Army troops deployed in the areas to enable the terrorists gain access to shops in the market in the towns to loot food items and other logistics. The attack was however repelled by the troops," he said.
"Consequently, due to fierce exchange of fire, the terrorists were forced to withdraw in disarray from the town resulting to damages on buildings and property along their route of withdrawal.
"There was no casualty on the security force (troops) and no loss or damage to own equipment as wrongly insinuated on social media. However, a vigilante sadly lost his life in a cross fire."
He also said that some civilians in the area sustained various degrees of injuries. "Peace has so far been restored in the communities with residents going about their lawful businesses," he said.
Also, the caretaker chairman of Gubio LG, Zanna Modu, told journalists in Maiduguri that the insurgents looted food items, razed houses and public buildings.
"It is unfortunate that few days after the insurgents attack; another element of the terrorists infiltrated the town at about 6:00 pm on Wednesday.
"I am in Maiduguri on official engagement and I received calls over the attack, they withdrew after causing serious damage," he said.
Also, Usman Zanna, a member of the House of Representatives (Gubio-Magumeri-Kaga Federal Constituency), said the insurgents torched Magumeri council headquarters, public buildings and houses in the area.
Zanna said many people were displaced due to the destruction of their homes by the insurgents.
He noted that the insurgents took advantage of troop's withdrawal from the affected areas to unleash mayhem on 'vulnerable communities.'
"The situation is calm; people returned to their homes on Thursday," he said.
Why Boko Haram fighters are hitting communities
Credible security sources told the Daily Trust last night that the two factions of the Boko Haram, including those loyal to ISWAP and those loyal to Abubakar Shekau, were having access to communities because of a new strategy introduced by the military high command.
"The top command has resorted to what they called 'supercamps' and from all indications it is not working," one of the sources said.
"Supercamps entail collapsing smaller military formations together to have a big command with more troops and munitions. We're more or less going back to the pre-2015 phenomenon when you have fewer but stronger formations that could not be overrun easily.
"But for some reasons, the method was jettisoned in the past but we are reviving it... This is bad because it gives the terrorists the luxury of nearly free movement through various communities," he said.
Asked to explain the essence of the supercamps, he said "It is simply due to lack of or in some cases inadequate equipment. Therefore, instead of piecemeal deployment, those behind the initiative feel it is better to concentrate in a place and carry out patrols."
Another source with knowledge of military operations in the North East said the implication is bad for the populace and the military.
"This is because we lack sufficient and reliable mobility to take the war to terrorists from the supercamps when there is an attack on any community," he said.
According to him, "Our communication is inefficient... We mostly rely on mobile phones and signals are not available in some locations especially in the northern fringes of the Lake Chad. We do not have adequate air surveillance over the gaps within the theatre."
Areas affected areas
Local sources told the Daily Trust yesterday that the whole 10 local government areas in northern Borno are affected by activities of the Boko Haram.
A community leader said seven local government areas including Abadam, Kukawa, Guzamala, Nganzai, Marte, Magumeri Gubio have "significant presence of the terrorists."
According to him, "It will not be wrong to say the insurgents control at least 70 per cent of the locations I mentioned.
The military only have presence in Mobbar, Monguno and Kaga and this is aiding movement of the Boko Haram fighters."
Another community leader said the Shekau faction is also visible along the Sambisa area, including locations around Bama, Konduga, Damboa, Gwoza, parts of Chibok among others.
"It means that Boko Haram either controls/looms large in many LGAs even though they have not occupied LG headquarters," he said.
Restriction of movements
Locals told the Daily Trust that the fresh challenge had further made movements of people very difficult.
"None of the major roads leading to Maiduguri is freely accesible," said Moosa Ismail, a driver at Tashar Kano in Maiduguri.
"Populace move with escorts and after approval by the military. Even today (yesterday), army engineers had to clear planted IEDs along Maiduguri - Bama road," he said.
Corroborating, a soldier said the major trunk that links Maiduguri to Damaturu and other parts of Nigeria, is also facing serious threat following repeated attacks on troops at their formation in Jakana.
"Troops were collapsed to Benisheik," he said.
"So, no troops in Mainok too; the whole stretch is open. People fear movement along the road. Col Elemele was killed in the last attack in Jakana," he said.
According to him, no civilian can move without escort along Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu; Maiduguri-Bama-Gwoza; Maiduguri-Mafa-Ngala-Cameroun/Chad; Maiduguri- Monguno-Baga; and Maiduguri-Gubio-Damasak-Niger Republic.