Troops deployed in Borno State by the federal government under the state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday have captured 17 towns and villages allegedly controlled by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.
The troops, which started arriving in the state on Tuesday night, headed straight for the communities where the insurgents allegedly removed the National Flag and installed theirs and engaged them in a series of gun battle.
The communities which were identified as hideouts which military sources had been taken over by the troops are New Marte, Kirenuwa, Zabamari, Zambiza Forest, Mafa, Baga, Bama, Banki, Woloji, Gulumba, Gamboru-Ngala, Damasak, Malam Fatori, Abadam, Gashigar, Kukawa, Monguno, among others.
Although top military personnel contacted were not forthcoming on the strength of the troops deployed in Borno, sources said it ranged from 4,000 to 10,000.
As soon as President Jonathan announced the emergency regime, apprehensive residents of the areas suspected to be Boko Haram havens started relocating to neighbouring towns and states.
It was learnt that soldiers had Tuesday night arrived in Maiduguri Air Force Base Terminal and were conveyed to the hideouts of the Boko Haram sect members.
Residents on the outskirts of Maiduguri said that they saw a truck-load of troops heading for Zambiza Forest, Mafa, New Marte, Kirenuwa, Kala Balge, Dikwa, Kukawa, Monguno, Damasak, Malam Fatori and Abadam border towns and villages.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) spokesman in Maiduguri, Lt-Col. Sagir Musa, said that “the troops were special squads from the Defence Headquarters on special assignment and have their separate officers who can speak on their mission in the state.
He said: “The troops cannot expose their plans or strategies on how to flush out the insurgents from their hideouts. This is a security matter that cannot be disclosed to the media.”
A senior military official, Brig-Gen. Olu Kolade, from Defence Headquarters, confirmed yesterday that the troops had cleared the Zambiza Forest while other camps were receiving similar treatment.
The actual number of causalities involved in the military expenditure could not be established. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said yesterday that at least 30 militants had been killed during air raids on their training camps in the north-east.
It said an army spokesman hinted that jets and helicopter gunships had been used to attack several camps, adding that a plane had been hit by anti-aircraft fire but had managed to return to base.
All through Wednesday and Thursday, shops and markets were not opened in Maiduguri as residents feared molestation by the troops but Governor Kashim Shettima assured the people that the soldiers would live by the rules of their engagement.
The residents’ fear was heightened by rumours that the soldiers and special squads were mandated by the federal government to “eliminate and trash all the dents of the Boko Haram insurgents anywhere they may be”.
The rumour mill also had that the soldiers in Maiduguri metropolis would “roam the streets day and night, conduct stop-and-search or cordon off certain roads and streets as well as restrict entry and exit” from the state capital.
Since the arrival of the troops especially in Maiduguri, socio-economic activities have been paralysed as people move about in fear; commercial and private motorists limited their movement to certain areas.
Consequently, the usual traffic jam disappeared on the roads linking public places and commercial areas like the Leventis-Ramat Shopping Complex area where most of the banks are located, the famous Monday International Market along Ahmadu Bello Way and its adjoining Central Business District (Post Office area), the Tashan Bama–University of Maiduguri route and Customs Area-Baga Road.
But business places and markets recorded large turnout of people, who came out to buy mostly food items, yesterday.
Courtesy Leadership, BBC
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