B’ Haram releases 192 hostages in Yobe
• Scores feared killed in fresh Borno attacks, troops repel onslaught
• President’s convoy trapped in Maiduguri, Shettima urges calm
• Nigerians protest insurgency in London
AFTER about five months in captivity, 192 out of 218 people abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Katarko town in Gujba Council of Yobe State, were yesterday released by their captors.
Katarko is a farming community and it is 30 kilometres south of Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
Also, suspected Boko Haram gunmen yesterday attacked the Monguno Military Barrack in Borno State, killing over half a dozen soldiers and residents in the early hours.
Monguno is a council headquarters and 145 kilometres north of Maiduguri, the state capital.
Meanwhile, an advanced team comprising security personnel and other key personnel attached to President Goodluck Jonathan are believed to have been trapped in Maiduguri, following renewed attacks by Boko Haram in parts of the state. A curfew has been imposed on Maiduguri with immediate effect till further notice.
Governor Kashim Shettima has called on fleeing residents and other people living in the state to “exercise more calm” and not to panic over yesterday’s attacks of a military base as well as Maronti and Njimtilo.
Over 30, 000 residents of Njimtilo and Maronti villages have fled to Bulunkutu, Moduganari, Pompomari and Bulunkutu-Abuja areas in Maiduguri metropolis.
Similarly, Nigerians and friends of the country held a three-hour rally opposite its High Commission in London against Boko Haram and particularly the terrorists’ recent massacre of about 2000 lives in Baga a few weeks ago.
A prominent politician in the area, Alhaji Goni Katarko, who spoke yesterday to The Guardian after reuniting with his family members in Damaturu, added: “These boys called me and asked me to pick the remaining captives at Woron Yinwa village, near the Gujba Forest. We were so lucky to have gotten a lorry that conveyed us to Gazargana village where we picked other hostages through the aid of military personnel.”
The military, according to him, kept the freed people in a camp and pleaded with us to leave them for security reasons.
Katarko said that he had already reunited with four out of his five family members abducted by the terror group, stressing: “I received four out of my five family members abducted, the other one is among the 29 people that are yet to be released.”
Also narrating how they were released, one Malam Aysha said that the insurgents gathered all of them and asked them to form two groups, saying those who wanted to stay with them should go to one side, while those not interested in staying with them should go to the other side.
He continued: “Many of us refused to accept their offer and the leader ordered that we should be taken out of the territory so that we can join the land of unbelievers out there.
They took us to Wuron Yinwa village before a herdsman led us to where we got a lorry that conveyed us to Gazargana village where we finally reunited with our families by our relatives.”
He explained that when they were abducted the insurgents divided them into camps, adding: “Some of us were taken to Ajigil and some to Buni Yadi, but they gathered all of us when they decided to release us yesterday morning.”
The camp, where the released hostages were kept was however cordoned off by the military to prevent journalists and the public from having access to the place.
According to a military officer, who escaped to Maiduguri yesterday, the insurgents could not be “effectively repelled,” as the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet from Yola arrived five hours after the capture of Monguno town.
“Our colleagues tried their best when these terrorists struck at about 3am Sunday, but their firing powers and strategies overwhelmed our men here. Some of us had to retreat for any further reinforcement and it became difficult for the gunmen to capture Monguno yesterday,” said the soldier.
“Many Monguno residents and some security personnel had to flee to safety, as the firing power of insurgents was overwhelming like the January 3, 2015 Baga multiple attacks and bombings,” said the military source.
Some residents of the Maimalari Barrack, which is the headquarters of the 7 Division of Nigerian Army, Maiduguri as well as the Shagari Low Cost Housing Estate (SLCHE) also said that they woke up yesterday’s morning only to sight many fleeing residents of Monguno to Maiduguri.
According to a member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) who spoke under anonymity yesterday, said that several soldiers were also injured in another attack at the 333Artillery Base and hostel attack near Maiduguri, while repelling the insurgents that sneaked into Maiduguri metropolis, by crossing River Ngadabul.
The source added: “The Boko Haram insurgents sneaked into Maiduguri through that river, south of 333 Artillery military bases that accommodate our soldiers on Kano Road in Maronti village. When we heard of their invasion at about 1am, some of us immediately alerted some soldiers at the hostel and Nigerian Air Force (NAF) base, before the gunmen attacked the village and killed some of our soldiers.”
He said that as more residents and soldiers were alerted on the attacks, troops from other sectors of the metropolis swiftly responded and repelled the insurgents.
He further stressed: “In September 2013, the Boko Haram attacked the same hostel, when some soldiers were killed, before it was rebuilt early last year.
The Guardian also learnt that all the affected areas had been cordoned off, including the closure of the Kano-Maiduguri Road from Airport Roundabout to Njimtilo village, eight kilometres west of the metropolis.
Confirming yesterday’s incident, the Director, Defence Information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade said: “Terrorists that attacked Maiduguri in the early hours of today (yesterday) had been successfully repelled.
“An extensive cordon and search is ongoing as part of the mopping up operation to determine details of the heavy casualties suffered by the terrorists.
“Meanwhile, scores of the terrorists have died in the course of the attack, while many of them were also captured with wounds.
“A Cobra Armoured Vehicle, heavy Artillery guns, as well as some machine guns and other weapons were captured from the fleeing terrorists.
“Three Gulf cars loaded with explosives were also destroyed.”
He added: “Similarly, troops in Konduga successfully repelled terrorists’ attacks twice yesterday.
“Some of the troops however lost their lives in the series of operations to repel the terrorists today. Those that were wounded have been evacuated for appropriate medical treatment.
“The 24 hour curfew imposed in the course of the operation is expected to be lifted as soon as mopping operation is concluded. Citizens will be allowed to go about their lawful activities from today.
“Meanwhile, an exclusive coordinated air campaign has taken over from ground forces in Monguno, as troops had to retreat from the location after the brigade commander and some of the troops were wounded while repelling terrorists attack on the town today.
“Calm has been restored in Maiduguri and Konduga as operation continues with patrols and surveillance.”
It was gathered that the President’s convoy, which is currently taking refuge at the Department of State Security Service (DSS) command headquarters along Airport Road, arrived in Maiduguri on Friday after being escorted by about 10 heavily armed soldiers from Bauchi.
The President’s convoy was billed to return to Abuja, after the PDP campaign rally which took place at Ramat Square on Saturday but stayed back as a result of security advice that was handed over to them by both the military and officers of the DSS.
One of those in the President’s convoy trapped (names withheld), said on telephone yesterday that the convoy was still hiding at the DSS State Command with serious fighting going on between the insurgents and security personnel. He noted that security men were still battling to repel the insurgents.
When contacted later, the same source said that Maiduguri had come under full control of security personnel but added that the security operatives were still working on the roads and villages.
The governor made the plea in a statement through his media assistant, Mallam Isa Umar Gusau, adding that despite the attacks, “security forces are making frantic efforts to safeguard lives and property.”
He further noted that it was evident in the patriotic manner the Armed Forces repelled an attack by insurgents on Maiduguri yesterday, showed a readiness to win the win against insurgency.