The Senator representing Borno Central in the National Assembly, Ahmed Zannah, on Wednesday raised the alarm that Boko Haram insurgents had started massacring teenage and adult males in its drive to expand its caliphate in the North –East.
Zannah, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, also insisted that the insurgents had taken over Bama, a town less than 78 kilomitres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The Senator, who is a native of Bama, spoke just as Reuters news agency reported that the Islamist fundamentalist sect seized Bara, a community in Yobe State.
Recounting how he lost two of his nephews to the Monday/Tuesday attacks on Bama, Zannah said, “As I am speaking to you, Bama has been captured and the insurgents are on the prowl for any male on sight.
“Everyone is a target as long as you are a male but for now, women and children are being spared.”
He challenged the military authorities and the Borno State Government to take the media to Bama to cross-check his claims on Tuesday that Bama had been captured by Boko Haram.
The lawmaker said, “Both the military and Borno State Government are lying to Nigerians. To prove that I am the one misinforming the public, they should take journalists to the town to cross-check the fact.”
We’re in control of Bama –Military source
A top military officer told one of our correspondents that the troops were as of Tuesday night still in firm control of Bama.
He said the insurgents were repelled from Bama with fighter jets and ground troops of the Nigerian Army.
The officer, who did not want to be named because he was not permitted to speak on the matter, added that the military had since deployed more men and weapons in Bama.
He said, “The soldiers are in control of Bama and they are in the barracks now. Even the soldiers that came to Maiduguri from Bama who were at Sector 9 and Sector 10 are back there.
“The commanders have also deployed more men; more arms and ammunition have also arrived so the soldiers are in the barracks now.
“Last night, two Air Force fighter jets and ground troops were used for the operation which led to their being dislodged from the town.
“It is not correct to say that only soldiers are there; Not all the residents fled to Maiduguri, some that relocated temporarily are back to their houses.
“The air strike affected only military and security formations where the insurgents launched attacks.”
The officer threw Zannah’s challenge back at him to take journalists to the town to verify his claims.
He said that in a situation like this, it was easy for politicians to be involved in all “manner of cheap talks.”
Another security source said that some soldiers who retreated from Bama when they ran out of ammunition and were quartered at sectors 9 and 10 had all gone back on Wednesday.
The source said that the soldiers were in control of the Bama barracks and other security formations within the troubled town.
It was gathered that tension was very high in Bama and Maiduguri when rumours filtered in that the insurgents sent a message that they would launch an attack on Maiduguri.
Bama attacks force Shettima back from Sudan, UK
The battle for Bama made Governor Kashim Shettima to cut short his official visit to Sudan and the United Kingdom.
Shettima, who left the state late last week was expected to visit some school authorities and over 70 students recently sponsored by his administration to study Medicine and Petroleum Geo-Sciences in UK and Sudan.
It was gathered that the governor, on returning to the country, held crucial meetings in Abuja with appropriate authorities over the happenings in Bama and the rest of the state.
He was also said to have approved the formation of a committee to coordinate the distribution of relief materials to the victims of attacks in the state.
According to sources, the governor was scheduled to leave Abuja for Maiduguri on Wednesday evening .
A former media aide to the governor, Mallam Isa Gusau, said, “Shettima returned mainly to provide needed leadership, be with his people, build public confidence, coordinate relief for victims, step up co-funding and provide psychological support to the military.”
Shehu of Borno calls for three-day fasting
Also on Wednesday, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi, called on all Muslims faithful in the troubled state to immediately commence a three-day fasting and prayers for the return of peace to the state.
El-Kanemi also urged Christians in the state not to relent in their prayers so that the insurgents who invaded Bama could be warded off.
A statement by the Secretary of the Borno Emirate Council, Alhaji Zanna Laisu Kazalma, quoted the monarch, who is also the Chairman of the state Traditional Rulers Association, as advising that the fasting and prayers should start on Thursday (today) and end on Saturday .
The statement read in part, “The Umma is equally urged to offer special prayers in all mosques and recitation of Khalimat Shahada ‘La Ilaha Illallah’ continuously during the fasting period. It is also urged that each and every Muslim individually and collectively offer Sadaqat to the needy and the underprivileged, especially to those internally displaced persons in various camps.
“In the same vein, the Royal Father also urged the Christian community in the state not to relent in their continuous prayers for peace and security to prevail in Borno State and Nigeria as a whole.”
Boko Haram takes over two Yobe villages
In Yobe State, the insurgents seized Bara and Gulani, two communities without noticeable presence of the military.
They also killed two policemen after an attack on Toro Local Government Area. The policemen were reportedly shot and killed and their guns stolen by the attackers at a mining station in Magama Gumau.
“The militants went preaching in the whole town asking people to leave government work and join them to do the work of Allah,” Musa Abdullahi, a trader who escaped from Bara told Reuters.
In Gulani, the insurgents allegedly occupied the local council secretariat complex and the lodge on Tuesday night.
According to residents of the community, the attack recorded no death in the town as the insurgents claimed they came to preach Islam.
Gulani is a border town with Buni/Yadi, which is believed to have already been captured by the insurgents. It is about 164 kilometres west of Damaturu, the state capital.
A resident, Bukar Isa, told journalists on the telephone on Wednesday that “no one of us was killed during the Tuesday invasion.
“The insurgents have taken over our secretariat complex and lodge by noon, before telling us that they stormed the town not to kill, but preach and do the work of Allah (God), according to the Quran,” he said.