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Escapees tell of distress within Boko Haram

Escapees tell of distress within Boko Haram Shehu Abubakar, Maiduguri Boko Haram fighters that are still in Sambisa forest have been weakened and are therefore…

Escapees tell of distress within Boko Haram

Shehu Abubakar, Maiduguri

Boko Haram fighters that are still in Sambisa forest have been weakened and are therefore in distress with only one safe route left for them to escape from the military onslaught in the forest, villagers and other captives that escaped from the insurgents’ main base, also known as Markaz located in Sambisa forest, have said.

The escapees who were seen being screened by soldiers at Bama/Banki T-junction and those taking refuge at the general hospital in Bama, told this reporter that but for the route between Markaz in Sambisa forest that leads to Banki through Pirgi which the insurgents are using to escape from the forest, most of them (insurgents) would have been killed by the military in the forest.

Some of the escapees that ran away from the forest told this reporter that the insurgents are very much aware of the December deadline given to the military by President Muhammadu Buhari to end the Boko Haram insurgency and are ready for what they always called the last fight.

One of the escapees, Malam Goni Musa (not real name), said, “Some of these women and children you see are their wives and children. They asked them to leave the forest as a way of saving their lives because they have been told that soldiers are planning a big fight. Most of their fighters are now around Markaz. They are actually set for the fight. They know they cannot withstand the military. Their hope is the route through Pirgi that they can use to escape.

“I am an Islamic scholar. They have been consulting me for spiritual assistance. They did not know that I was planning to escape, they would have held me back or even killed me. Some of these escapees were actually told by the insurgents to leave. But some of us left without their consent. They are using motorcycles to patrol the bush and kill anybody they see trying to escape without approval.

“I do not know how they are getting their information, but they seem to be up to date with information about military operations in the area. As a spiritualist, they share some of the information with me. They told me that there is a military plane that goes about taking pictures with only one soldier inside (drone). They said the plane operating in Nigeria cannot shoot but that the one in Cameroon can snap pictures and shoot.

“They also told me that some Nigerian soldiers have been taken to Banki and stationed there. That at first, soldiers are going from Bama and Banki junction to Banki which makes the place very unsafe for them. But for some time now, there is no vehicular movement along Banki junction to Banki which makes the place safe for them. They said they have observed that helicopters shuttle between Bama and Banki now, may be to even supply food to troops.

“Yes, I noticed that the insurgents have lost hope in the fight. Just ask these soldiers they will confirm to you that so many insurgents have ran away from Sambisa and surrendered. That story is not a secret in Markaz.

“Those ones left behind know that their days are numbered. They may not surrender because of stubbornness or because of the belief they have that they are fighting a religious war. There are several old people and children that cannot trek from the bush that need to be evacuated. No, the insurgents are not holding them,” the escapee said.

In Bama, the second largest town in Borno State after Maiduguri the state capital, this reporter did not see a single person except about 2,000 escapees taking refuge at the Bama General Hospital and some construction workers hired by the state government to bricks blocks that will be used in rebuilding the town.

The escapees, who are occupying the wards at the hospital and the deserted staff quarters, were seen being attended to by military health personnel even as more escapees were taken to the hospital from Bama/Banki T-junction that serves as their safe point after leaving the forest.

Another escapee that pleaded for anonymity for safety reasons said he will not comment on whether or not he was an insurgent, adding, “I have been with them (insurgents) for a very long time. How I survived under them all this while only calls for thanksgiving. We knew when they were going out for operation and returned with stories of destructions they did. Though General Buratai has never gone beyond Konduga this way, the news of his frequency to Borno has left the insurgents worried.

“The most terrifying news to the Boko Haram insurgents was when they learnt that President Buhari gave soldiers December deadline to end the war. The insurgents knew that the soldiers will do everything possible to flush them out.

“There was a time the soldiers increased operations in Sambisa and the insurgents ran from Markaz through Pirgi to Banki axis hoping to enter Cameroon but the Cameroonian soldiers had sealed up their border.

“All the insurgents that ran towards Banki had given up that they will be crushed by the Nigerian soldiers because they thought the Pirgi route would have been blocked. But they ran back to Markaz through Pirgi. If the soldiers can block that Pirgi route then attack Sambisa and the bushes around Banki, I am not sure there will be no insurgent left.

“Since Buhari became president, whenever there is news of planned attack on Sambisa, the Boko Haram insurgents around Markaz will always run towards Banki through Pirgi and stay away for some time. The insurgents knew that there are soldiers around Damaturu road or when running towards Konduga. Of recent, they have been kind with the captives in the forest may be because they are planning to use us as shield,” he said.

Daily Trust noticed that life has been restored in Gwoza, Pulka and Konduga that were fully taken over by insurgents though this reporter was unable to go to Banki because of threats of mines allegedly planted on the way.

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