Maiduguri — No less than 30 persons were on Sunday night killed by Boko Haram insurgents who invaded Auno, a village 20 kilometres from the state capital, Maiduguri.
Aside from those killed in the attack, several others, including women and children were also abducted, while 18 vehicles and several houses were razed. A source said the insurgents invaded the community at 10pm, shooting sporadically at everyone in sight.
"The insurgents abducted a number of women and children, with no fewer than 30 people who were mostly motorists killed and 18 vehicles destroyed," the source said.
An eyewitness, who gave his name simply as Ali Baba, said a large number of shops and houses were looted before being set ablaze by the suspected insurgents who sneaked into the town at a time most of the villagers had retired to bed.
"I could not count the number of vehicles that were burnt. But I saw three burnt corpses in a vehicle of civilian JTF. I also saw many houses and shops burnt to ashes," Baba said.
Residents said motorists and passengers were trapped after military authorities at the Auno checkpoint denied them entry into Maiduguri for failing to reach at the stipulated time of closing the gate, thereby forcing them to pass the night near Auno before the insurgents struck.
Borno State governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, who confirmed the attack yesterday, stormed the scene of the attack in company of Garrison Commander, 7 Div Nigerian Army, among other top officers of the Army, to commiserate with those who survived the attack.
Gov Zulum pledges support for victims
Zulum, visibly shaken when he saw the charred remains of victims who had died in the fire resulting from burnt vehicles, requested the military authorities to dismantle the Auno gate from its present position and move it further away from the village so that it will be more difficult for insurgents to gain access into the village.
He said: "Borno State government will assist those whose vehicles were destroyed in the attack as well as those whose goods were burnt in trucks transporting foodstuff and other wares into Maiduguri."
He also called on the people to remain calm and be law-abiding in the face of these challenges while government looks for ways out of the situation.
Only 10 killed in Auno attack, says Theatre Commander
Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, told journalists, yesterday, that only 10 people were killed in the incident, contrary to reports which claimed that over 30 people were killed in the Boko Haram massacre.
Governor Zulum, who visited the scene of the attack early morning, said he was briefed by the villagers that about 30 people were roasted in the fire ignited by the insurgents at about 9.50pm on Sunday.
But the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole denied the report, stating: "I have no knowledge of a military tanker on that road at that time."
The Theatre Commander told journalists that his men averted another tragedy that would have brought sadness by rescuing three school children abducted by Boko Haram along Gubio road.
He noted that his men fought skillfully and rescued the three children( two girls and a boy) unhurt.
The children were handed over to their parents by the Theatre Commander.
Speaking further on the Auno attack, Adeniyi called on the general public to avoid being stuck at certain locations along Maiduguri road.
He stressed that people should plan their movement very well along the Damaturu-Maiduguri road so that they will not be stuck at some of these locations.
"We normally close the Damaturu road by 5.00pm and it is expected that you time your movement very well so that you get to Maiduguri by 5.00pm, or Damaturu by 5pm because the soldiers cannot leave to fight Boko Haram and come back to protect people sleeping on the road who refuse to obey the law in the first place," Maj. Gen. Adeniyi advised.
Adeniyi informed that the insurgents came on motor-cycles and parked them from a distance and walked down to burn down vehicles of travelers.
"We will do more to ensure that incident like this does not happen again. I am calling on all stakeholders to make the Maiduguri-Damaturu road safe, until the people realize that there is a counter insurgency going on throughout the northeast.
"As a result of the dastardly activities of the Boko Haram, certain measure have to be taken to safeguard lives and property and the military is conducting counter-insurgency, especially on Maiduguri-Damaturu road," he said.
I won't let B-Haram hold Nigeria to ransom -- Buhari
Reacting to the attack yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned it, vowing his administration was ever determined to frustrate the goal of Boko Haram to hold Nigeria to ransom.
Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja yesterday, commiserated with families of those attacked, assuring them that his administration will continually frustrate the devilish operations of Boko Haram, and bring it to an end.
He said: "The commitment of this administration to protect the lives of Nigerians will not be derailed by the cowardly and indiscriminate violence against innocent people by Boko Haram terrorists."
While condoling with the government of the state, President Buhari warned "that terrorists are clearly on a back foot and their days are numbered.
"As our armed forces continue to receive more hardware and intelligence to counter our current security challenges, the remnants of Boko Haram will ultimately be crushed.
"The peculiar challenges of asymmetric warfare notwithstanding, our armed forces are ever determined to defeat these enemies of humanity,."
Rep faults army strategy
Also reacting, a member of the House of Representatives, Engr. Satomi Ahmed, faulted the strategy adopted by the military in its war against Boko Haram.
He told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Hausa Service that the number of the dead during the attack was unquantifiable as many were burnt beyond recognition in the vehicles they boarded.
In the interview monitored by journalists in Kaduna yesterday, the lawmaker from Borno State said the insurgents had abducted women and children from Auno at about 10pm,while tankers and other articulated vehicles conveying gas and variety of foodstuffs were set ablaze.
"It's a huge loss; nobody can tell you the exact number of the dead. Many were burnt beyond recognition inside their vehicles. It's a big tragedy," he said.
He said the loss in human and material resources would definitely affect the economic well being of the few markets that had flourished in the area.
According to him, the method adopted by the military to stop entry into the state capital was what kept hundreds of travelers stranded in the village for the insurgents to descend on.
"This strategy is alien anywhere in the world," he added.
He recalled that Governor Zulum of Borno State had an altercation with military personnel in the area, adding that the state government had since directed the relevant agencies to provide relief materials to surviving inhabitants of Auno.