Boko Haram’s drive to expand its caliphate suffered a major setback on Monday as 59 of its members were killed by soldiers while trying to capture Bama, one of the largest towns in Borno State.
The terrorist group had last week declared a caliphate in Gwoza, a town 135 kilometres from Maiduguri.
Investigations revealed that over 200 insurgents, who were dressed in military camouflage, stormed Bama in a convoy of vehicles and motorcycles painted in the army colours.
Many of the residents fled to neigbouring villages, Kodunga and Maiduguri. About 200 of them are in Maiduguri awaiting the intervention of the National Emergency Management Authority and the state government .
A security source, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the insurgents also attacked Madagali and installed a ruler for the town.
It was gathered that tension had been high in the state with an intelligence report that the terrorists were massing and piling up arms to launch an attack on Maiduguri.
Our source added that the threat and the battle in Bama made the military leadership to impose a 7pm to 6am curfew on Maiduguri.
It was learnt that the curfew was meant to avail security personnel of the opportunity to track the movements of the insurgents.
The source added that the military authorities had last week deployed additional 1,000 soldiers in Maiduguri when it got wind of the threat by Boko Haram.
As of the time of filing this report on Monday, the insurgents were still holding out against the troops.
Another security source, who confirmed that the troops killed 59 out of the sect members, added that 30 others were injured.
He was, however, silent on the casualty figure on the side of the troops.
“Fifty nine of them fell to the superior weapon handling and war tactics of the soldiers. About 30 others were seriously wounded,’’ said the source who asked not to be named.
The Defence Headquarters, in its tweeter handle, DefenceInfoNG, at 7pm on Monday, said the “Bama attack is being repelled. We cannot state casualty situation or figures now. Everything necessary will be done to contain the terrorists.’’
Some residents of Bama told journalists in Maiduguri that they woke up early Monday morning to heavy bombardment.
One of them said, “There was pandemonium everywhere as gunshots boomed. We later heard that over 200 Boko Haram terrorists attempted to capture the town.
“We also learnt that they stormed the town through Bama-Banki-Gwoza Road but they were confronted by some troops near the Bama Mobile Police Unit located about five kilometres away from the centre of the town.
“They were believed to have tactically attempted to enter the town in a convoy of military vehicles and motorcycles, dressed in military uniform and armed with sophisticated weapons and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).”
He added that during the battle with the troops, sounds of Rocket Propelled Grenades were heard.
He said the explosions made many residents to flee the town to Konduga and Maiduguri.
Another resident, Mallam Mohammed Ahmed, told journalists on the telephone that “there was an attempt by the insurgents to enter Bama and capture it as they did in Gwoza few weeks back. But thank God for the gallantry of the troops stationed near the mobile police unit who confronted them with the assistance of their colleagues from the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army. I know more than 59 insurgents were killed and many injured.”
He said, “Many of our people had to flee to Maiduguri and Konduga for safety. Some are still taking refuge in some villages near Bama.”
Another resident of Bama, Alhaji Masa Bukar, told journalists at the Konduga Motor Park they were advised by the soldiers to leave the town.
Bukar said, “ We were just preparing for the Subh prayer (4:45am) when we heard gunshots around the Technical College and Mobile Police Unit along Banki Road.
“We were advised by the military and the Civilian Joint Task Force to leave the town so as to allow them confront the insurgents.”
He disclosed that some of them stopped in Kawuri or Goniri and Konduga, “but others decided to go straightaway to Maiduguri where military presence is high.”
A traditional title holder in Bama who did not want his name in print said in Maiduguri that he was pleased that the soldiers displayed gallantry.
He said, “Even the reinforcement being done by the GOC now is a clear indication that the military is serious and ready to end insurgency in the state unlike in the past.”
Efforts to reach the spokesman for the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Col. Usman Sani, on the telephone yielded no result as his line was switched off.