Attacks by Boko Haram terrorists have escalated in Borno State and claimed many lives in the last few months, Daily Trust can report.
The Nigeria Security Report by an Abuja-based security outfit, Beacon Intel, headed by Dr Kabiru Adamu, said over 252 people were killed in the state in August alone.
Residents and community leaders said they were worried about the upsurge of attacks by terrorists.
Sources alleged that some Boko Haram fighters who surrendered to the military had returned and rejoined terrorist groups in Gwoza, Damboa, Guzamala, Kukawa, Abadam, Baga and other areas of Lake Chad.
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A repentant Boko Haram fighter called Yaga Balu, who surrendered to the military in Gwoza and reintegrated into the society, had allegedly returned to Sambisa forest.
Sources said Balu escaped with a riffle and motorcycle given to him by government during an operation in the Gwoza axis.
They said Balu had so far allegedly masterminded several attacks that led to the killing of over 30 people, including a police operative, soldier and injured several others.
“Before this ambush, between September 9 and 16, they killed 10 farmers in 10 days. They killed six people in Jige, two in Nyamtake and another two people on their farm.”
Killings heightened after Balu returned to bush – Gwoza emir
The Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Mohammed Shehu Timta, said Balu was part of his (emir’s) team when he led farmers to start clearing and cultivate their farmlands.
“He is a small boy but very dangerous. I can’t say he is the one leading these attacks, but all the attacks took place after he returned to the bush.
“We did not witness any killing throughout the farming process until when Balu left. That’s why most people accuse him of being behind the attacks,” the emir said.
He said Boko Haram informants should be fished out “because these hypocrites would tell their leaders about any operation the military is about to take.
“Few months back, the military climbed the Mandara Mountain and started liberating some communities but the insurgents took advantage of the early information they received and knowledge of the terrain to push the military back.”
A security source said the military lost five gallant soldiers during the Mandara Mountain operation because the aerial support they requested could not help due to heavy rainfall on that day.
A repentant Boko Haram member was paraded by the police on September 22 for killing his ex-wife over alleged extra marital affairs with her boyfriend in Maiduguri.
The spokesman of the Borno State Command, Sani Shatambaya, said the suspect was arrested after he was declared wanted. About the same time, 10 farmers were reportedly killed on their farmlands located a few kilometres from Maiduguri.
Sources said the farmers were attacked by the insurgents on their fields between Bulakunkumma and Maiwa villages of the Baram Karowa ward, Mafa Local Government Area of the state.
According to media reports, between June 14 and 30, Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 36, mostly farmers, across the state.
On June 26, the suspected Boko Haram militants ambushed eight farmers and slaughtered seven on their farmlands in Damboa Local Government Area.
In another attack on June 14, 15 people working on their farmlands were also killed and some beheaded by the suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Damboa and Jere local government areas.
On June 22, eight wood mongers were also killed in a fresh Boko Haram attack in Mafa. On June 30, another six people, including a woman, were killed by suspected ISWAP members in Damboa Local Government Area.
‘ISWAP fighters regrouping in Marte’
Sources said repentant Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri and other parts of the state, who had gone back to their old ways, had started moving to the northern part of Lake Chad, where they met one Baana, the ISWAP commander of Daban Masara, who started gaining ground after his camp was decimated.
One of the sources said: “Malam Baana of ISWAP is becoming stronger, receiving support from foreign terror groups; and some of the surrendered fighters that betrayed the trust given to them have started returning to his base.
“Before now, his enclave was seriously depleted to less than 20 fighters, many were killed, while others surrendered to the military, but he now has over 300 fighters.
He said it was Baana, with the support of other fighters that attacked the Merari area, where they killed a soldier, injured a forest ranger and seized 9 motorcycles on September 22.
“He got the support of fighters from the North, including repentant fighters across the state to accomplish his plan of establishing a strong cell in Marte.”
Ndume asks youths to join fight against terrorists
On his part, Senator Ali Ndume said: “It is regrettable to inform you that most of these killings in Gwoza were perpetrated by youths in Gwoza who have joined Boko Haram and refused to repent as witnessed in recent times.
“Therefore, I reiterate that youths in Gwoza should please stop demonstration or rioting whenever there is an attack; rather, they should join the forefront in the fight against Boko Haram like what is obtainable in many communities.
“Young men and hunters should volunteer like their counterparts in Biu, Askira Uba and Chibok to resist the activities of the insurgents in their towns.
“Also, the government should support them with logistics to bring an end to these killings. Izge village is in the bush but the insurgents cannot make the mistake of attacking them because the people – both men and women – would trace them in the bush and take their revenge.”
‘Repentant fighters can’t live on N30,000 in Maiduguri’
A source said the N30,000 monthly stipend being given to the repentant fighters was not enough to keep them in the camp. He said this could be one of the reasons they were going back to the bushes, organising themselves and launching attacks on communities or ambushing commuters.
“I met one of the surrendered insurgents that returned last month and he told me that they only went to Maiduguri and registered so as to get unabated access to the town,” he said.
Terrorists open market with women to attract more fighters
It was gathered that the terrorists had devised other methods of recruiting members.
“To attract more fighters into his fold, a night fish market that trades between 8pm and 12am was opened by Malam Baana at Dajin Gashakar, where free women visit and drugs are sold openly,” the source said.
He said recently, the insurgents had been confiscating fishing boats from fishermen to leave the location, accusing them of spying for the military.
“Over 100 canoes have been seized by the insurgents so far. And the day before, they slaughtered Alhaji Garba Uban Taru and the son of Umaru Wawu at Targa-buwa Island for a simple reason that his father refused the work of a tax collector they assigned him to do,” he said.
He said fishermen were taxed by ISWAP fighters to fish in Tirigulla, Duguri, Kuyiram, Musaram, Kilma, but they sacked them.
“These are communities that produce at least one trailer per week. It is the heart of fishing and farming in the Lake Chad area,” the source said.
He said the insurgents had made fishing in the Lake Chad a feat for only those who dare. “But it is the only occupation we have since childhood, and we have large families to feed. So, for many of us, it is worth making sacrifices.
How ‘repentant’ B/Haram members are catered for
Our correspondent reports that thousands of Boko Haram fighters, who purportedly surrendered, have been camped at a designated place in Maiduguri.
The state government takes care of their needs, including food and medicals.
They also receive cash stipend to attend to their other needs.
But this has been a source of concern to residents who felt threatened by the presence of the “repentant” insurgents.
The Borno State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Zuwaira Gambo, allayed the fear of residents, saying only about 5,000 out of the over 100,000 repentant Boko Haram members were actual insurgents.
Gambo disclosed this during a paper presentation titled, ‘Borno Model’ at an event to commemorate the 2023 International Day of Peace. ”
“Most of the others are farmers, women and children held hostage by the insurgents. Many of them are victims held by the insurgents,” she said. She said those being deradicalised and reintegrated to their communities did not include the insurgents.
“We do not release the insurgents. We have records of the whereabouts of any person released,” Gambo said.
The commissioner solicited the support of the international community for the government to succeed in bringing lasting peace to the state.
DHQ plans review of operations
The Defence Headquarters said plans are underway to review the military operations across various theatres of operations. Director, Defence Information, Brig-General Tukur Gusau, told Daily Trust that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, had received audit report on all operations.
Gusau, when asked whether the Operation Safe Corridor would be among the operations that would be reviewed, said all operations being supervised by the military high command are subject to review. The Operation Safe Corridor programme, which was established in September 2015, was aimed at de-radicalizing, re-habilitating and re-integrating repentant Boko Haram insurgents into society.