•22 policemen, 14 prison officials killed
•Four arraigned for complicity in UN building bombing
By Michael Olugbode and Tobi Soniyi
The ancient city of Bama in Borno State has been turned into a ghost town following daring multiple attacks on police, military and prison installations in the town in the wee hours of Tuesday by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.
The attack, which led to the death of at least 55 people, forced residents of Bama to either flee the town or lock up their homes and businesses for fear of their lives.
The Joint Task Force (JTF), which took journalists to the town to assess the damage caused by the terrorists, said at least 22 policemen; 14 prison officials, including the commander and prison doctor; 13 suspected members of the sect; three children; two soldiers; and one woman, were killed during the multiple attacks on the town.
The attack on Bama occurred a few hours before the federal government arraigned four suspected terrorists believed to have been involved in the bombing of the United Nations (UN) headquarters in Abuja almost two years ago before a Federal High Court, Abuja.
According to sources, 300 suspected members of Boko Haram were said to have laid siege on Bama at 5 am Tuesday by first attacking an army barracks – 200 Tank Battallion - in the town with the intention of seizing the military facility.
Also attacked were the magistrates’ court in front of the Shehu of Bama’s palace and the prison beside the palace.
However, as the terrorists attacked the barracks, they were repelled by the eagle-eyed soldiers who matched them fire for fire and killed several insurgents who were forced to retreat with the corpses of their members.
But they were unable to take away 13 of their members whose bodies lay lifeless, and one other member who was injured and tied to the stake when the JTF and journalists visited.
As the sect members were attacking the army barracks, which is on the outskirts of the town, other members were simultaneously attacking other facilities in Bama.
Other buildings that were attacked included the police station, police barracks, mobile police station, the prison and magistrates’ court.
The sect members stationed in the town, who were assisted by their colleagues retreating from the army barracks, took out their rage on the government buildings by totally razing them to ashes and killing any uniformed officer in sight.
One sorry sight was at the prison where 105 inmates were alleged to have escaped during the attack.
It was gathered that the insurgents forcefully gained entrance into the prison and slaughtered its commander and the chief superintendent. Other officials of the prison, upon seeing the onslaught, ran for cover in the prison yard.
However, they were flushed out and killed, 12 of them in total, after the freed inmates revealed their hiding place to the invading sect members.
Also, a newly wedded woman, the wife of a police corporal, was burnt to ashes at the police barracks by the rampaging insurgents. There wasn’t a single soul in the barracks when JTF and the journalists visited.
The mobile police barracks was also totally destroyed as well as the police station housing the offices of the area commander and DPO.
A security source said the insurgents moved swiftly around the town between the destroyed facilities with the aid of vehicles with the inscription “Bama Local Government Mass Transit Assisted Scheme”.
When the town was visited, some of the vehicles, which had conveyed the insurgents, had been destroyed.
Speaking on the multiple attacks last night, spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, confirmed that 55 persons were killed in Bama.
He said the terrorists had first started with the attack on the army barracks where over 300 insurgents that lay siege on the facility were repelled and went into town to wreak further havoc.
He said most of the insurgents were dressed in army camouflage and went about setting ablaze security formations, the health care centre and magistrates’ court.
However, the federal government remained committed to bringing members of Boko Haram to book, as it yesterday arraigned four suspected terrorists believed to have been involved in the suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja almost two years ago, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
The suspected terrorists, Mr. Salisu Mohammed, Inusa Mukailu, Danzumi Haruna and Abdulsalami Adamu, were charged with four count charge wherein they were accused of agreeing among themselves and with others still at large, on or about August 20, 2011, to engage in an illegal act which resulted in the death of 23 persons thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 96(a) of the Penal Code Law.
They were alleged to have knowingly assisted and facilitated the activities of persons engaged in an act of terrorism and thereby committed a punishable offence.
On count three of the charge, the suspected terrorists were alleged to have deliberately and maliciously engaged in an act that seriously damaged an international organisation, thereby running foul of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011.
They were also accused of being involved in the release of dangerous substances that caused an explosion endangering 23 human lives at the UN building. This offence also runs contrary to the provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011.
At the trial, the prosecutor, Mrs. I. Ideva, a chief state counsel, said that the charges be read to the suspected terrorists but the suspects claimed that they did not understand the English language.
One of the court's interpreters had to be invited to interpret the proceedings to the suspects in Hausa language before their pleas were taken. All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The bomb explosion, which caused massive devastation to the building's lower floors, also destroyed the offices of 26 humanitarian and development agencies of the UN which are housed there.
More than 73 persons including staff of the UN, visitors and staff of private businesses operating from the building received non-fatal injuries while scores of others lost their lives.
In September 2011, the State Security Service (SSS) had identified one Mr. Astrid Mantuk as the mastermind behind the attack and offered a huge sum as reward to anyone with useful information that would lead to his arrest.
The suspects, who were docked yesterday were arrested in September 2011 and dragged before an Abuja magistrates’ court where they were charged with organising the bombing. They have been in custody since then.
Following their not guilty pleas, the prosecutor, Mrs. Ideva applied for a date for the trial, noting that the prosecution witnesses were all ready to give evidence at the trial.
Some of these prospective witnesses include the former owner of the exploded Honda CRV vehicle with registration number AV 38 NSR (Kano), which was used for the operation.
The trial judge, Justice Gladys Olotu, adjourned the case to June 11.