- Military denies claim
- Wanted terrorist kingpin surrenders
Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri, Paul Obi in Abuja, and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
Gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram terrorist group laid siege to two villages in Borno State between Thursday and Friday and kidnapped many women, boys, and girls, eye witnesses and multiple local sources said at the weekend. The assailants were said to have caused massive destruction of property in the communities and taken 22 persons hostage at the boundary community of Pulka.
But the Nigerian Defence Headquarters denied the kidnap while responding to an enquiry by THISDAY. Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, told THISDAY, “The report has not been confirmed.” Similarly, Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Sani Usman, said saturday, “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a news story circulating on social media and some mainstream media that suspected Boko Haram terrorists have allegedly attacked Pulka and abducted 22 women.
“We wish state that the report is completely false and should be ignored. For the avoidance of doubt, Pulka and its environs are heavily fortified and there has not been any security breach in the area.”
In a related development, the Nigerian Army said yesterday that two suspected Boko Haram terrorists on surveillance mission at Kareto and Dangalti villages were apprehended by troops of 158 Task Force Battalion of 5 Brigade, Nigerian Army about 10am on Tuesday. Usman, who disclosed this in a statement, also said one Bulama Kailani Mohammed Metele, the number 253 on the Nigerian Army’s Wanted Boko Haram terrorists poster produced recently, had surrendered himself to troops of 145 Task Force Battalion, 5 Brigade, at Damasak.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram insurgents were alleged to have destroyed more than 1,500 schools in the North-east since the start of the terrorist campaign in 2009. They also denied over 400,000 children access to education. The founding director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, disclosed this saturday in Bauchi at a town hall meeting on the promotion of security of schools.
Eyewitnesses said 18 girls and four women were kidnapped at Pulka, a village in Gwoza Local Government Area, close to the Nigeria-Cameroon border, when the insurgents first struck on Thursday morning.
A member of the Civilian Joint Task Force helping the military in the war against Boko Haram, Musa Ibrahim, said by telephone that the suspected Boko Haram gunmen arrived Pulka about 6am on Thursday in a convoy of pickup trucks. Ibrahim said the attackers fired several gunshots, which terrified the whole community, before abducting some of the girls.
A resident of the village, who spoke anonymously to our correspondent by phone, said some of the girls were abducted while they were trying to flee into the bush. He said four women were “forcefully bundled” into a waiting pickup truck, explaining that the insurgents came into the village through the eastern flank. He put the ages of the kidnapped girls between 13 and 17.
According to him, “The Boko Haram fighters are from Mamman Nur camp. They arrived in pickup vans around 6am and seized 14 of our young girls aged 17 and below. Our people had to flee into the bush, but fortunately, no one was killed in this attacked village.
“From the look of things, the insurgents were loyal to the Boko Haram faction of Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, the son of Mohammed Yusuf, the late founder of the Islamic sect.”
Another villager, Idris Yusuf, who also spoke by phone, said the gunmen “did not harm anyone during the raid and they made no attempt to shoot any of us running away from this village.”
Pulka is about 119 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri, the state capital.
In the second attack on Friday, the insurgents, allegedly, attacked the remote village of Kaye, near Gumsiri, in Damboa Local Government Area. They were alleged to have killed three civilians and abducted scores of young boys and girls, and some women during the raid that lasted about one hour.
A local hunter, Abubakar Mohammed, said by telephone that the insurgents invaded Kaye in the southern part of the state about 10pm on Friday. He said the attackers razed down the entire village.
He said, “They rode on bicycles to attack us. Three persons were killed and as I speak with you, scores are missing. We have searched for them up to Gumsiri without any success. The whole village was burnt down completely; even our livestock was not spared.”
Attempts to get the reaction of the Nigeria Police to the incidents were unsuccessful, as the spokesman of the Borno State police command, Victor Isuku, did not answer calls to his mobile phone as at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, WARDC said yesterday that Boko Haram had destroyed over 1, 500 schools in the North-east since 2009. WARDC director, Afolabi, said the group, with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and Forward in Action for Education, Poverty and Malnutrition, was addressing a number of issues affecting the safety of students and teachers in the region.
Afolabi told a town hall meeting at Zaranda Hotel, Bauchi, “Bauchi State has not been left out of the attacks on education. In April 2014, the staff quarters and school bus of the GGSS, Yana, were burnt to ashes. Another girls’ school, GGSS Tafawa Balewa, had to be closed and the students sent to other schools for fear of possible attacks on the school. Let us not forget the kidnapping of over 200 girls from GGSS Chibok, Borno, on April 14, 2014,”
She called for urgent intervention by stakeholders on issues of security, saying many schools are porous as safety has not been a top priority in schools.
In the meantime, Usman said preliminary investigation showed that the arrested spies wanted to facilitate attack on the communities by Boko Haram.
The army spokesman also disclosed that Metele from Tumbun Bera, belonged to Mamman Nur’s faction of Boko Haram under the leadership of Abu Mustapha. He said the man was undergoing further interrogation.