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Dead bodies litter Borno as Boko Haram intensifies attacks •Military launches counter-Offensive

By News Express on 03/03/2014

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Details of the weekend bomb explosions in Maiduguri, Borno State, emerged yesterday as residents and rescue officials said at least 50 people died in the twin blasts while another 39 were killed in another attack on Manoik, a village near the state capital, by suspected Boko Haram terrorists. The death toll may have risen to 100 in the twin blasts targeted at a shopping centre and a viewing centre at Gomari-Bintu Sugar area of Maiduguri occurred at about 6.05pm on Saturday.

Scores of football enthusiasts who were watching the evening English Premier League matches were caught by the explosions believed to have been hidden in a truck loaded with firewood and parked near the viewing centre by the terrorists. The residents yesterday told the Deputy Governor, Zannah Mustapha, during his visit that 46 people died on the spot while over 60 injured persons were rushed to hospitals within the metropolis. Hospital sources also said some of the victims later died yesterday even as some were said to be in critical condition.

Mustapha expressed the sympathy of the governor and the government to the people, adding that government would always identify with them in their period of grief. He said the governor directed him to express his condolence to the bereaved. He promised that government would assist the victims and those whose shops were destroyed by the explosions to assist them return to normal life. He directed the Chairman of Maiduguri Metropolis Council (MMC) to compile a list of affected persons to help government plan its palliative support for them.

The residents said they saw a truck loaded with firewood parked near the shopping centre unknown to them that the vehicle was carrying bombs. “We didn’t know it was going to be the source of our sorrow,” a resident said amid tears. According to an account, two men reportedly alighted from a truck loaded with firewood, “opened the vehicle bonnet as if trying to fix a fault” and disappeared from the scene in a jiffy. “The truck exploded about 10 minutes later,” sources said. Some residents who were around the area rushed to the scene ostensibly for rescue mission but the second bomb went off immediately. “It was the second blast that killed many people because those who moved toward the first scene were mostly affected,” Aji Musa, a resident said.

The development prompted troops to launch stop and search operation in the city early yesterday to track down possible movement of arms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) into the city. Many residents said they were jolted by the discovery and return  An official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said many people died and injured but declined to give exact figure, insisting he is “not authorized t do so.” He said both NEMA and Red Cross Society collaborated with the police to rescue those suspected to have been trapped. He, however, said no more corpses or victims were discovered in yesterday’s rescue operation.

In another attack in Mainok, along Maiduguri Damaturu road, about 39 people died in the incident involving explosions and sporadic shooting, security sources said. Mainok is about 55 kilomteres from Maiduguri. A resident, Mansur Buba, said gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram laid a siege on the community at about 8pm. “We were still discussing the bomb explosion in Maiduguri when we started hearing gunshots and explosions everywhere. Almost all our houses have been burnt. This morning (Sunday), we have recovered 39 bodies,” he said.

Smarting from the devastating attacks of the last few weeks, including the killing of 43 hapless students of Federal Government College, Bunu-Yadi, Yobe State, by the Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian security forces have intensified their ground and air assaults against members of the sect.

The intensity of the raids on the insurgents is said to have forced members of Boko Haram to flee.

However, reports indicate that the terrorists have became even more deadly as they flee, as they have gone on the rampage against civilian populations in the North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

According to a statement signed yesterday by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, the latest onslaught by the military had been directed at clearing terrorist bases sited in Daggu and Yazza areas of Borno State, which he claimed during the weekend achieved the desired results in the ongoing campaign against terror.

Olukolade said the mop-up operation by ground forces after the air assault resulted in the death of several terrorists who were located in the bases.

He also stated that the civilian population had before the assault been evacuated from within the vicinity of the identified terrorist enclaves, in line with operational orders.

He disclosed further that extensive cordon-and-search operations of the entire locality was ongoing with a view to apprehending the wounded and other members of the terrorist group who might still be trying to flee.

Also yesterday, he said troops in pursuit of those who carried out the attack on the school in Buni-Yadi last week, had a fierce encounter with the terrorists around Mainok and other locations between Apa and Abulum in Borno State.

He said: “The air and land operations that ensued recorded the death of some terrorists. Soldiers also died in the encounters.

“Meanwhile, suspects who are believed to have been responsible for detonating the bombs that exploded at Bintu Sugar in the Ngamari area of Maiduguri yesterday, killing many citizens and wounding several others, have been arrested and are helping in the ongoing investigation on the incident.

“Patrols are continuing on the land and air in the entire mission area in the North-east towards apprehending or eliminating the rampaging terrorists in the area.”

Furthermore, Olukolade said the campaign coordination cell had in its report dismissed as untrue the reports claiming that civilians were mistakenly killed in the air operations in some parts of the mission area operation.

He explained that the reports were believed to be part of the design by those bent on discrediting the counter-terrorism mission.

“The Defence Headquarters has reaffirmed its directive that necessary care should continue to always be taken to ensure the safety of innocent Nigerians in the operational areas, notwithstanding the fierceness of the encounters,” he said.

Pieced together from reports in Daily Sun and THISDAY. Photo shows rescue workers at the scene of one of the blasts.

Source News Express

Posted 03/03/2014 1:58:51 PM





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