MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Boko Haram militants imposed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria as the military failed to intervene, and were been warned that the attack is imminent, witnesses said on Thursday.
Residents of the Gwoze local government district in Borno state had asked for military assistance to send soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack. However, help didn’t arrive, a community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said.
“We all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us,” said the community leader who escaped the massacre and fled to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
The militants arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, and told the civilians they were soldiers and came to protect them all, the same strategy they had used when they kidnapped more than 300 girls from a school in the town of Chibok on April 15.
The militants gathered the people in the center, “they began to shout ‘Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar,’ then they began to fire at the people continuously for a very long time until all who had gathered were all dead,” said the witness, who didn’t want to be identified out of fear for his safety. Allahu akbar means God is great.
This slaughtered was confirmed by both Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno, and a top security official in Maiduguri, who insisted not to be named.
Communication was a problem which is why it took a few days for survivors to get the word out about the massacres to Maiduguri. Travel on roads is extremely dangerous and phone connections are poor or nonexistent.
Ndume said, the military has assured, the Borno state governor, that they will send soldiers to the area immediately.
“It is sad that we have to wait till now that people are being killed for government to take action,” said Ndume. “Soldiers of the Nigerian army have been overstretched in both human and material capacity.”
Communications were made to the following, Defense Headquarter spokesman Chris Olukolades and presidential spokesman Reuben Abati. Both of them were trying to reach through phone calls and emails. However, there was no responds.
The community leader said some of the people who escaped are trapped in the mountainous area. “They still see the gunmen going about attacking villages and hamlets by setting them on fire,” he said.
He said managed to survive because “I was going around to inform people that the soldiers had come, and they wanted to address us.” As people were fleeing, other gunmen lurked outside the villages on motorcycles and mowed them down, he said.
There was another incident when the militants attacked Alagarno, a village near Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped, and destroyed the place, according to Pogu Bitrus, a Chibok community. People heard gunshots as the fighters were approaching and were able to flee, he said.
It appears that soldiers are outgunned and outnumbered by the insurgents, don't have bullet-proof vests, are not properly paid and have to forage for food, as soldiers told the Associated Press.
The insurgents attacked villages, on Monday, in the Gwoza local government, a regional political center whose emir was killed in a Boko Haram ambushed on his convoy last week. Emirs are religious and traditional rulers who have been targeted for speaking out against Boko Haram’s extremism.
Borno Gov. Kashim Shettima pays a visit on Saturday to Gwoza to extend his respects to the fallen emir and was quoted as saying it was a terrifying ride. A local journalist who was in the convoy that was escorted by 150 soldiers counted at least 16 towns and villages that were deserted along the 85-mile route, according to the local media report.
Boko Haram’s main objective is to establish Islamic state in Nigeria, has been taking over villages in the northeast, killing and terrorizing civilians and political leaders as they make a comeback from a year-long military offensive. Thousands of people have been killed in the 5-year-old insurgency, more than 2,000 so far just this year, and an estimated 750,000 Nigerians have been ousted from their respective homes.