By Matthew Onah and Segun Awofadeji
It was a black Independence Day celebration for the inhabitants of Mubi town, Adamawa State, as unknown gunmen, suspected to be members of Boko Haram, massacred at least 46 persons, mostly students of three tertiary institutions in the town, on Monday night.
At least three others were confirmed killed over the weekend in Bauchi State in the ongoing reprisals in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area.
Although the official casualty figure in the Mubi killing was put at 25, sources said the figure could be higher as no fewer than 26 students of the Federal Polytechnic alone were shot dead.
Students of other schools attacked were from the School of Health Technology and the Adamawa State University, all in Mubi.
The victims, a source said, were shot dead in what he described as a “commando style attack”.
An official of the Federal Polytechnic, who craved anonymity for security reasons, told THISDAY in a phone interview that the shooting took place at about 10pm, when the gunmen opened fire on some students at Wuro-Fatuje. Wuro-Fatuje, a suburb of Mubi, is heavily populated by off-campus students of the three institutions.
“There was heavy gunfire from around 10pm until 11pm, when it subsided,” he said.
He confirmed that 26 students of the polytechnic were among the casualties, while the others were students of the two other institutions.
According to him, the bodies of the victims have been deposited at the General Hospital, Mubi.
By Tuesday, operatives of the internal joint security task force, headed by Brig-Gen. John Nwoaga, along with the state Police Commissioner, Geofrey Okeke, had beefed up security in the town with the deployment of more soldiers and policemen in the town that was locked down last week by security agents in search of Boko Haram insurgents.
Adamawa State Police Command spokesman, Ibrahim Mohammed, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, confirmed that 25 bodies had so far been deposited at the General Hospital, Mubi.
He, however, said the figure might rise as security agents were still in the area combing for more victims.
Also, the spokesman of National Emergency Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Yushua Shuaib, confirmed over the phone that 25 people were killed in the attack on the students.
According to him, the number of the injured could not yet be determined as security agents were still combing the area for bodies and injured victims.
He, however, said calm had been restored following the beefing up of security in the town by a combined team of soldiers and policemen.
Last week, agents of the special squad in the state, “Operation Restore Sanity”, had recorded a major breakthrough when they killed one of the key commanders of the Boko Haram believed to be Abubakar Yola, alias Abu Jihad, during a gun duel with the insurgents in Mubi.
Also arrested were 156 persons, four of whom are believed to be top unit commanders of the sect involved in the recent bombings of telecommunications facilities about a month ago.
Also discovered and destroyed were two bomb factories of the sect, including over 300 improvised explosive devices already primed for attacks.
In addition, the security agents seized 25 assorted brands of rifles, mostly brand new AK47 rifles, over 2,000 daggers, swords, bows and poisoned arrows.
In the last two weeks, the Adamawa State Government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on Mubi in the face of the mounting security challenge in the town.
Also, three people were killed in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in Bauchi State, following retaliatory attacks between Zwall and Zango communities to avenge the death of their kinsmen in previous attacks usually carried out during market days.
Confirming the incident while fielding questions from reporters, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the local government, Alhaji Iliyasu Gital, said one woman and two men were killed during the latest reprisal.
Gital explained that a few weeks ago, some parts of Zwall Village were burnt by some unknown people, prompting some people to launch an attack on those believed to have masterminded the first attack.
He said the crisis had forced the council to close the three markets, including those of Zwall and Zango villages, in the area.
According to him, some people had already been arrested, while security men were still investigating the matter with the aim of arresting those behind the attacks.