• Six years after, 2,000 IDPs return home to celebrate Sallah
By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
A massive explosion left 32 persons dead and 84 others injured in Abbachari, Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State at the weekend as the orgy of violence in the North-east showed resilience in spite of desperate military efforts to restore peace in the region.
There were conflicting reports about the cause of the explosion. While the police command in the state suggested a terrorist action, but still investigating, some residents suspected it might have resulted from military artillery strike.
The military, however, denied causing the incident, hanging it on six suicide bombers, who it said detonated the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that sent the victims to their early graves.
According to a witness, Malam Buba Shettima, however, said two separate bomb blasts occurred in Shuwari and Abbachari, at about 8:30p.m.
“The whole of Damboa was shaken by the unfortunate incident. We all scampered for safety as the blasts were coming from different directions. There were bodies everywhere.
“We suspected that the many deaths recorded were a result of the military artillery,” he said.
Another local from the area, Mohammed Hassan, who corroborated the claim, said, “About 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, an attack suspected to be from an artillery killed 31 innocent people in Damboa Shehuri and Abachari. The attacks came from two separate directions. My house was among some of the houses destroyed.”
The Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen Rogers Nicholas, denied the claim that the Army was responsible for the blasts, saying the killings were caused by suicide attacks and not military artillery.
“There was nothing like an attack from the military artillery. You can see the pictures of six female bombers who detonated their explosives and as a result, 20 persons were killed while others were injured,” he said.
Rogers urged the people of the area to disregard the claim that the victims were killed by the military and not by suicide bombers.
The District Head of Damboa, Modu-Zannah Maina, who described the incident as “shocking and disturbing,” said the attack was perpetrated by female suicide bombers.
He lamented that a lot of people that were affected were mostly children, adding that many victims were injured. “We are here in this hospital to check our people affected by Saturday’s bomb blasts. So far, the victims have been responding to treatment,” he said.
The Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, Demian Chukwu, supported the view of the military that the explosion was probably the handiwork of Boko Haram terrorists.
He said in a statement yesterday, “On Saturday, at about 20.45hrs, an explosion occurred at Abachari area, in the outskirt of Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.
“At the sound of the explosion, personnel of the Nigeria Police and members of the Civilian JTF mobilised to the scene and discovered 20 dead bodies and 48 injured persons in a suspected terrorist attack.
“The wounded and the dead were evacuated to a hospital while the scene was sanitised by a deployment of police EOD unit.
“Investigation is ongoing to unravel the nature of the attack.”
The Chairperson of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Hajiya Yabawa Kolo, who also confirmed the incident, said the agency had deployed its personnel to evacuate wounded persons to the hospital for quick medical attention.
According to her, “Our team has been deployed to render life-saving support to the victims of the blast. As you can see, they have been tirelessly working with ICRC since morning to evacuate the injured from the airport to the hospital.
“We are all saddened by the unfortunate incident that occurred in Damboa.”
Meanwhile, six years after they were forced to flee their homes by the Boko Haram sect, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) from northern part of the state went back home to celebrate this year’s Eid-el-Fitr. Many of them had been in IDP camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State after their flight.
The return of the IDPs could be traced to the successes recorded by the Nigerian troops, which is currently leading a military operation tagged: ‘Operation Last Hold’ in the area.
A statement yesterday by Army Headquarters spokesman, Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu, in Maiduguri, said the Eid prayers were observed in the Headquarters of Guzamala Local Government Area, adding that the returnee IDPs were assisted back to their communities by the troops of Operation Last Hold.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, had launched the operation with a-four month mandate to clear Boko Haram terrorists from northern Borno and its environs and ensure that the IDPs safely return to continue their farming and other livelihood engagements.
THISDAY gathered that troops of Operation Last Hold on clearance operations in some communities in northern parts of the state had cleared farmlands and Lake Chad islands of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) for displaced persons to resume farming and fishing activities in the liberated communities.
The cleared farmlands are located in eight local government areas of Gudumbali (Guzamala), Mobbar (Abadam), Marte, Gubio, Kala/Balge, Ngala, Gubio and Monguno.
These eight councils were attacked and destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists between 2012 and 2016, with massive loss of lives and property.
Encouraging the resettlement of over 2,000 IDPs who returned from their camp in Maiduguri back to their communities last Thursday at Gudumbali, the council headquarters of Guzamala Local Government Area, Buratai said the operation was aimed at clearing all farmlands in the area of explosives and remnants of insurgents to ensure a smooth movements of IDPs from their camps to their communities, and to provide very safe environment for normal life to continue.
Buratai, who was represented by Chief of Operations and Training, Army Headquarters, Maj-Gen David Ahmadu, said: “This operation is to move IDPs from camps to liberated communities to resume their farming and other economic activities in eight councils and Lake Chad Islands.”
He noted that with the clearance of farmlands of explosives planted by insurgents, farmers could now return to their communities, as peace had returned, saying that the operation also included the launching of house cleaning and rebuilding of destroyed houses.