Boko Haram Islamists Dislodge Nigerian Soldiers, Take Over N'East Town, Baga


Boko Haram insurgents are said to have taken over Baga after dislodging troops of the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in a fight that lasted nearly 16 hours. Daily Trust reports.
Hundreds of the fighters attacked Baga, a flourishing fishing community in Borno State on Saturday, fleeing residents and local officials said. Baga is 275 kilometers north of Maiduguri, the state capital.
The insurgents had reportedly hoisted their flag at the headquarters of the MNJTF and went ahead to sack many neighbouring communities.
Residents were forced to flee to Chad Republic over the Lake Chad while others ran southward into other parts of Borno State in search of safety.
Reports said many civilians, troops and insurgents were killed in the attack that lasted between the early hours of Saturday up till 9pm of the same day.
Many houses, shops, vehicles, farm produce and public buildings were destroyed by the insurgents, reports said.
The MNJTF comprises of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon set up to stem the activities of the Boko Haram.
Baga town, situated on the shores of the Lake Chad had been attacked several times in the past, with the worst in 2013 when hundreds of people were killed.
An official of the Kukawa Local Government Musa Usman said it was a coordinated attack by the terrorists.
“They went to Baga in a convoy of Toyota Hilux vehicles and pickup vans. They went with many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and an Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) that gave them cover.
“I strongly believe there are mercenaries among them because some are coloured and could not speak any of the local dialects such as Kanuri, Shuwa Arab or Hausa,” he said.
Another official, who spoke in confidence, said the assailants went to Baga through a village near Kukawa town, destroying Mile 3 and 4 MJTF barracks and attacking the soldiers at their duty posts. 
He said: “The soldiers engaged the attackers for many hours but finally, they had to give in when it was evident that the number of the insurgents was swelling every hour.”
He said because some of the soldiers had run out of ammunitions, they pulled out their uniforms and fled along with the civilian population.
Senator, Maina Maaji Lawan, told the BBC that militants stormed Baga from several directions early Saturday and that, far from defending the town on Lake Chad, the multilateral troops had run away leaving residents to escape into the forest, he said. 
Communications with the town were cut off and exact information about casualty numbers could not be confirmed, he said. “We are very dispirited,” the senator added.
Confirming that the military had abandoned the base, he said people’s frustration knew “no bounds” over the apparent fact that the military had not fought back.
“There is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram,” the senator said. 
Our correspondents saw thousands of fleeing residents at the Baga Motor Park in Maiduguri shortly on arrival from the sacked communities.
Many, including women and children, looked exhausted and sick as they awaited the arrival of their relatives and officials of the state and national emergency management agencies.
Musa Haruna, who arrived Maiduguri around 5pm yesterday, said he slept in the bush and trekked many kilometres before he got a bus to take him to Maiduguri. 
“It was around 5am yesterday (Saturday) when we started hearing gunshots and they (insurgents) gained entrance into the barracks that house many of the troops from the four countries.
“They killed many civilians that live in and around the barracks. They also killed some soldiers. 
“As I am talking to you now, I am yet to see my father and mother since I left Baga, my prayer is that they are safe,” he said.  
Sheriff Mukhtar, a fisherman, said hundreds of people crossed to Chad in canoes. He said he feared that many people, especially children and women might have been stranded along the lake.”
Another fleeing resident, Mohammed Musa said that the insurgents also pursued fleeing residents including women and children and killed them.
A woman who fled the town, Yagana Fannami said her husband and three children were missing after the attack. Yet another woman, Falmata Yunus said many women were trapped and she feared they might be kidnapped by the insurgents.
Our correspondent also saw some residents of Maiduguri at the motor park who came in desperate search of their relatives living in Baga.
“I am waiting for my mother who lives in Baga, I just hope that she is safe, I learnt many of our people are wandering in the bush” a young man who simply identified himself as Bukar said.
Some of the fleeing residents have already taken refuge at the Jajeri Primary School behind the Baga Market.
A senior security official in Maiduguri confirmed the incident in Baga, which he described as unfortunate.
He said the MNJTF troops did their best, “But the fact is the terrorists have superior weapons and have large number.”
In the last six months the insurgents have taken over many towns and villages in Borno State and are enforcing their laws.
In places like Abadam, Damasak, Gamboru-Ngala and Kala/Balge local government areas, the insurgents have reportedly mounted roadblocks, collecting taxes and enforcing martial laws.
The town was attacked on April 23 last year and nearly 200 residents were said to have been killed, including women and children and more than 2000 houses destroyed.
Few days later, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered a full scale probe into the incident and assured Nigerians and the global community that Nigeria “places the highest possible value on the lives of all citizens of the country and that his administration will continue to do everything possible to avoid the killing or injuring of innocent bystanders in security operations against terrorists and insurgents.”
The outcome of that report is yet to be made known.
Source: Daily Trust.
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