Posted by News Express | 5 June 2014 | 5,484 times
No fewer than 300 villagers were reportedly killed in three communities around Gwoza local government area of Borno State on Monday as gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram but fully kitted in military fatigue uniform attacked them, eyewitnesses and security operatives said.
A few villagers in Danjara, Agapalwa and Antagara who managed to escape the attack are currently taking refuge in the rocky Gwoza hills, while others mostly women and children who were spared by the attackers have found their way into Cameroonian territory.
A state lawmaker representing the region, Peter Biye, told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that “they (Boko Haram) opened fire on villagers and burned houses and churches to the ground”. Dozens of people were killed in each attack, he said, but he could not give precise figures.
Andrew Tada, an indigene of Attagara who lives in Maiduguri, the state capital, told the BBC that he lost two cousins in the attack, noting that residents had told him they were preparing to bury 45 people from that village alone.
“It is very sad and the villages are deserted now; we are just asking government to give us security to go there tomorrow (today) to evacuate the corpses for burial,” Tada said.
Impeccable sources who saw it all told LEADERSHIP that the gunmen that attacked the villages pretended to be soldiers who had come to protect them from further attacks, but when the fake soldiers managed to gather all the villagers at the centre of the village in Antagara, they opened fire on them, killing hundreds and injuring several others.
“They came in military Hilux vans, and we all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us; when they came in over 10 Hilux vehicles we all felt relieved that, at last, the military had arrived. So we went to them and they told us that ‘we are soldiers and we are here to protect you all’. They then urged all of us to converge at a particular spot at the centre of the village; we all complied. But when they saw that a sizeable number of us had converged, they began to shout ‘Allahu-Akbar, Allahu-Akbar’ on top of their voices, then they began to fire at the people continuously for a very long time until all that gathered were dead,” said a community leader who would not say his name for fear of his safety. “I lost four of my blood brothers in the massacre. I was lucky to escape because I was not very close by when the gunmen started shooting at our people. I was going round to inform people that the soldiers had come and they wanted to address us. I managed to escape through villages in Adamawa State and later made it to Maiduguri”.
The source said while the gunmen were killing the villagers in the three villages, some others who were riding on motorcycles lay in ambush outside the villages and continued to pick on the fleeing villagers.
“When some of the villagers managed to escape, they were unfortunately waylaid outside the villages by some gunmen on motorcycles who would catch and slaughter the men and young boys; they only allowed women and children to go,” said the source.
The source added that Boko Haram gunmen had for over a month now hoisted flags in attacked villages like Ashigashiya and Chinene, but each time they ran to the military to report their plights, “the military personnel in Gwoza would say they have not been given order to go to that area; even when they are hearing the sounds of their guns, they really don’t care.
“But on Monday, when we went to tell the soldiers that we got information that the insurgents would be coming to attack us, they assured us to go back and that they would come to join us in the village. That was why we thought that those that came to attack us were soldiers, because they came in military Hilux and they were all dressed like soldiers. But it turned out that they came out to massacre us.”
The source said: “Corpses still litter everywhere in the villages and in the bush; some women whose husbands were killed before their eyes had to return to dig shallow graves to bury their husbands so that their bodies would not be preyed upon by vultures or wild animals. I can confidently tell you that over 300 persons have been killed.”
He added: “As we are talking now, some of the escaped villagers who are trapped up in the mountains said they still see the gunmen going about attacking villages and hamlets by setting them on fire.
“More than 1,000 homes in the three villages have been burnt to ashes, and they are still attacking more and more. We are worried if the federal government has forsaken us as citizens; if they have not, then, why are the soldiers yet to go and help us fight these insurgents that have destroyed our community, destroyed our farmlands, destroyed our pride and destroyed our future?”
A top security officer in Maiduguri, who didn’t mention his because he is not allowed to speak directly to the press on this matter, confirmed the incident in Gwoza, even as he said there was a move by the military to deploy soldiers to go and secure the women and children.
“I am aware of the attack in Gwoza, which is another bad case, but I believe the military is doing something towards going there to rescue the women and children,” said the security source.
Borno State governor Kashim Shettima was in Gwoza last Saturday to attend the burial of the late Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, who was killed by Boko Haram gunmen while on his way to attend the burial of the Emir of Gombe, Shehu Abubakar, who died after a brief illness in London.
Gwoza came under fire after the departure of the governor, who was able to make his trip there under tight security.
The senator representing Southern Borno, Muhammed Ali Ndume, whose home town is Gwoza, was seen going forth and back the Government House in Maiduguri where he was meeting with the governor on ways to send help to the embattled people of his country home.
When contacted by LEADERHSIP on phone, the senator confirmed that his country home was under siege.
Ndume: “About six wards of Gwoza local government are under siege; the insurgents had taken over these communities and sacked virtually everyone out of their homes; many had ran into Cameroon; many had been killed, their homes burnt down. Of all the villagers and hamlets that are in Gwoza East, which comprises six wards, only Gava town is not affected for now.
“We have had a meeting with the governor and the GOC; and the GOC has assured us that troops would be sent there immediately to go rescue the situation; the Borno State governor had given the military all the needed logistics at his disposal to assist them go rescue the villages, especially where the insurgents were said to have hoisted flags.
“It is sad that we have to wait till now that people are being killed for government to take action; we know that for long the road to Gwoza from Maiduguri had been a no-go area even for the soldiers. It is a known fact that soldiers of the Nigerian Army have been overstretched in both human and material capacity; the federal government has to rise to the occasion to give these soldiers the needed support to work.
“Two major federal government bridges leading to Gwoza have been bombed and no one seemed concerned about this.”
•Excerpted from a LEADERSHIP report. Photo shows scene of a previous Boko Haram attack in Borno.
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