Boko Haram Seize Military Base In Borno state
Boko Haram has seized Borno State town Baga, a key multinational military base, officials and eyewitnesses said yesterday.
Senator Maajin Lawan (Borno North) said troops had abandoned the base in the town of Baga after it was attacked on Saturday by the insurgents
Residents of Baga, who fled by boat to neighbouring Chad, said many people had been killed and the town set ablaze.
Baga was the last town in the Borno North area under government control.
It hosted the base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), comprising troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger.
Set up in 1998 to fight trans-border crime in the Lake Chad region, the force more recently took on Boko Haram.
Boko Haram attacks towns and villages on an almost daily basis, abducting people, including young boys and girls.
Residents who fled to Chad said they had woken to heavy gunfire as militants stormed Baga early on Saturday, attacking from all directions.
They said they decided to flee when they saw the multi-national troops running away.
Senator Lawan was quoted by BBC World Service as saying civilians ran “helter skelter – some into the forest, some into the desert”.
Communications with the town were cut off and exact information about casualty numbers could not be confirmed, he said.
“We are very dispirited,” the senator added.
Confirming that the military had abandoned the base, he said people’s frustration knew “no bounds” over the military’s failure to fight back.
“There is definitely something wrong that makes our military abandon their posts each time there is an attack from Boko Haram,” the senator said
Last week, Boko Harem abducted around 40 young men from a village also in Borno State. A resident told reporters that armed militants driving pickup trucks had ordered villages to attend a sermon, then began picking out men aged between 10 and 23. The village lies close to a forest where the group is believed to operate bases.
The capture of young men during raids on villages is consistent with Boko Haram’s tactics, though much is still unknown about the group’s strategy beyond its oft-repeated claim that it seeks to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
Boko Haram is still holding in captivity more than 200 schoolgirls it abducted from their school in Chibok in Borno State last April.
The abduction drew worldwide condemnation, after which President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to secure the area, including by deploying more troops. But the promised troop numbers have failed to materialise, often leaving residents to rely entirely on vigilantes for protection.
Boko Haram’s five-year uprising in Nigeria has claimed more than 13,000 lives and has seen dozens of people, including women and children, kidnapped by the Islamists.
Baga was the scene of an alleged military massacre in April 2013. Human rights groups and media reports said that Nigerian troops had stormed the town after militants mounted a deadly attack on an Army patrol. Thousands of houses were burned and over 100 bodies were recovered in the aftermath, according to community leaders who spoke to Human Rights Watch. Nigerian military officials said only armed militants were killed.
The incident cast a shadow over Western cooperation with Nigeria’s military. The US has supplied arms and training to Nigeria, as well as intelligence support, primarily in pursuit of Boko Harem. Britain and France have also assisted Nigeria since the high-profile capture of the schoolgirls from Chibok. Dozens of those captured have since escaped, but 219 are still believed to be in captivity.