•Troops engage insurgents in fierce gun battle
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Boko Haram on Saturday attacked three local government areas of Borno State, in audacious attacks barely a day after President Muhammadu Buhari claimed the terrorist group had been massively degraded. Buhari had also said Boko Haram terrorists were taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns to wreak havoc on communities.
The comments came following an assault on Kolloram village, in Gubio Local Government Area of Borno State, in which 81 residents were killed.
The terror group attacked Gubio, Nganzai and Monguno local government councils in the latest assaults.
But troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were said to have fought off the terrorists from Monguno.
The attacks came about five days after Boko Haram insurgents opened fire on Kolloram village, killing 81 residents. The battle with the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) and its local franchise, Boko Haram, which started about 12noon on Saturday, was still on-going in Monguno at the time of filling this report.
The group had drawn widespread condemnation following the Tuesday attack in Gubio that killed 81 persons, with the president calling it one of the deadliest attacks on innocent people.
But Boko Haram returned with an attack on another settlement in Gubio Local Government Area, Dunga village, Saturday morning.
The extent of damage in the town is yet unknown as at the time of filing this story.
However, about the same time that Dunga was being assaulted, the insurgents attacked Usmanti village in Nganzai Local Government Area, killing 29 persons.
Credible sources told THISDAY that the insurgents invaded Usmanti about 11am on Saturday. The village, though in Nganzai Local Government Area, has a boundary with Gubio Local Government Area, where 81 persons were killed on Tuesday.
The insurgents were also said to have attacked Monguno town, one of the most strategic towns in Northern Borno, which houses humanitarian operations and has structures to accommodate over 100,000 internally displaced persons. Eyewitnesses in Monguno, however, revealed that the military was able to repel the terrorists in the town. They said land troops were assisted by airstrikes to ward off the invading terrorists.
Attempts to confirm the incidents from the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Col. Sagir Musa, were unsuccessful, as he did not return a text message to his known mobile line.
Meanwhile, military sources told THISDAY that the insurgents moved into Monguno in large numbers, shooting sporadically, and precipitating the encounter with soldiers of Operation Lafiya Dole.
Monguno, hometown of the National Security Adviser, Major-General Mohammed Monguno (rtd), plays host to thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It is about 93 kilometres North-East of Gubio, the local government where 81 villagers and 1,300 cattle and camel were slaughtered on Tuesday.
A member of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), Bunu Malam, reportedly confirmed the developments.
“We have since received a signal from Monguno axis, but their telecommunications network there seemed to have gone down; so one could not reach people there,” he said.
Over 120,000 IDPs presently occupy 33,000 households in Monguno.
It would be recalled that the village, Faduma Kolloram, in Gubio Local Government Area tasted the fury of the terrorists on Tuesday, when Boko Haram accused the villagers of giving intelligence on their positions to the military.
The attack came a few days after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, returned to Abuja from Maiduguri after spending two months coordinating the war against insurgency.
Buratai had said troops decimated over 1,000 insurgents within the period. Nigerian Army had announced that a large contingent of military personnel was drafted in the general area to track and apprehend or neutralise the perpetrators.
A statement signed by Musa said the army was committed to investigating the circumstances surrounding the attacks by Boko Haram on innocent civilians in Gubio.
“The Nigerian Army is deeply saddened by the unfortunate incident in which suspected retreating Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists, with a few sleeper cells within communities, ambushed and killed innocent women and children in Faduma Koloram village, Gubio LGA of Borno State.
“We would ensure that appropriate action is taken to mitigate against any future incidents,” the statement had said.