No fewer than 100,000 people from Damasak town in Borno State fled into neighbouring Niger Republic on Wednesday following multiple attacks by Boko Haram fighters.
Government sources said at least 10 people were killed on Wednesday, many wounded and thousands of others wandering in the bush.
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It was also learnt that hundreds of houses of the civilian population, their shops and government buildings including police divisional headquarters have been burnt to ashes by the invaders.
Wednesday’s attack on Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar LGA made it the sixth time in the last two weeks; and in the last four days, Nigerian ground troops supported by the air component have been battling for the control of the agrarian community.
There was no official statement from the military on the status of the town, which had hitherto survived nearly 11 years of intermittent onslaught by terrorists.
But credible sources said the terrorists finally hoisted their flags on Wednesday, and were still in the town at the time of filing this report.
Damasak, situated 188 kilometres from Maiduguri, is a strategic town in the northern part of Borno, bordering Niger Republic and other LGAs in the shores of Lake Chad.
The latest incursion was carried out less than 24 hours after a similar one on Tuesday.
During Tuesday’s attack, the terrorists were reportedly repelled by the troops but not after they inflicted serious damage on the town.
There was another attack on Saturday, April 10, during which 6 people including two women, a man and three soldiers were reportedly killed.
Witnesses said a fighter jet had also mistakenly dropped a bomb on a naming ceremony gathering, which led to the death of the newborn baby, its parents and some guests. Authorities have not yet confirmed this.
Some locals, security sources and government officials said during yesterday’s siege after they were chased away on Tuesday, the terrorists, firing from all directions of the town, forced distressed families to flee and also took the troops by surprise.
The fighters, who are loyal to the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), reportedly drove in gun trucks in the afternoon while others rode in threes on motorcycles wielding Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).
Completely confused, some of the residents headed for relatively safer villages in Nigeria and others crossed over to neighbouring towns in Niger Republic and adjoining villages.
Women, some of them pregnant and others carrying babies on their backs, with smaller children trailing them were reportedly the worst affected as they left their homes completely unprepared and trekked many kilometres in search of safety.
It was learnt that as the victims flee, the Nigerian troops redeployed to take charge in Damasak engaged the invading terrorists to no avail.
Our people under siege – Senator Kyari
Confirming the anguish in Damasak, the Senator representing Borno North in the National Assembly, Abubakar Kyari, told reporters that the town had been overrun by the insurgents who stormed the area around 1 pm.
Kyari, who led a delegation of members both from the national and state assemblies from the area to the Maiduguri Government House where they met with Governor Babagana Zulum behind-closed-doors, later told reporters that the terrorists were in Damasak.
“We are aware of the attack last night, they (Boko Haram) burnt several houses and some people lost their lives. Some people sustained bullet wounds and many properties set on fire.
“But most disturbing reports that we received this afternoon is that they are back in Damasak now, from about 1 pm and they are still there as of 1745hrs, so this is the latest reports. There is a brigade there but the town was sacked yesterday.
“The reports we received was that they have buried 10 people and 20 people have been wounded, so the people have fled the town.
“The people are desirous of staying in Damasak but because of the insecurity, some have fled to the bush and others to neighbouring Niger for safety but we came here to meet with the governor with all members of the House of Representatives.
“Our major concern is the safety and welfare of our people…We feel their pain, we feel their hardship and we want to give them the assurance that the government is up and doing.
Development in Damasak worrisome – NEDC
The Managing Director of North East Development Commission, Dr Mohammed Alkali, who also led another delegation and met with Governor Zulum expressed worry over the reports emerging from Damasak town.
“We are here over the sad incident that is happening in Damasak. Two days ago, Damasak was under attacked and today it is under attacks; so we came here to commiserate with the governor and our people. We want to see how we can come in and synergise to provide succour to the affected people.
“The military is doing well but they should enhance their activities so that we see things ending as quickly as possible,” he said.
Historic town in ruins
Daily Trust reports that hours after the devastating attacks on Damasak on Saturday, the United Nations condemned the development saying thousands of people would face serious humanitarian challenges.
During the attack, the terrorists destroyed the United Nations Hub housing all the workers of the international organisation.
It was meant to take support to the door-step of victims of Boko Haram insurgency, which has ravaged almost all the local government areas of Borno North in the last 11 years. Apart from the UN hub, the terrorists had destroyed the Norwegian Refugees Commission (NRC) facilities at Fulatari Ward.
They also ransacked the warehouse of the World Food Programme (WFP), which was filled with assorted food items.
They stole the drugs and other equipment at the general hospital in the town, in addition to taking away many vehicles belonging to all the humanitarian agencies in the town and set the rest on fire.