Originally published in Assist News Service
Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists have stormed a neighborhood in the uneasy Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, killing at least 11 people with weapons hidden in a coffin, local residents have said.
Since then, more than 60 alleged Boko Haram terrorists have been killed in the same city by local militiamen who are trying to rid the area of this violent Islamic group are said to have killed around 2,000 people, many of them Christians, since their vicious campaign began in 2009.
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, where incidentally, I was born to British missionary parents, Alf and Ann Wooding.
According to media reports, there were conflicting reports as to the number of people who lost their lives in the “fake” funeral attack that began late Friday (June 7, 2013).
Information has been slow to emerge in the region because the mobile phone network has been shut down by the military amid an offensive aimed at crushing the Islamists.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa confirmed that gunmen launched attacks on Friday evening in the neighborhoods of Hausari, Fizzan and Gwange.
Hausari resident Moh’d Aji said 10 attackers came in a pick-up truck, with a coffin visible in the exposed rear of the flat-bed vehicle.
“Everybody thought they were going for burial until they alighted from their vehicle and started bringing out their guns,” said Aji.
“They just opened fire into different directions.”
He said 11 bodies were recovered after the attack, including one child.
Another resident, Habibu Malud, said 13 people were killed.
Military raid ‘hideouts’
The military spokesman said troops responded on the Saturday morning, raiding insurgent “hideouts” in the targeted neighborhoods.
“Five of the suspects died in a shootout as they attempted to flee,” Musa said.
It was not clear if the five dead reported by Musa were among the corpses spotted by residents.
Boko Haram fighters are known to blend in with the local population, and distinguishing between insurgent deaths and civilian casualties is typically difficult.
Bodies in Kano, Nigeria, being carried in small truck after being allegedly murdered by Boko Haram
The insurgency has left at total of 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security services.
The military launched a sweeping offensive against Boko Haram on May 15 of this year and has claimed successes, describing the Islamists as being in “disarray.”
But those claims have been impossible to verify and there are concerns that the insurgents may regroup once the military pressure fades.
Lull in attacks
There has been a lull in the number of reported attacks since the offensive was launched, but very little information has emerged from the northeast with the phone networks down.
The group has repeatedly carried out attacks in Maiduguri, their traditional base.
They were thought to have relocated to sparsely populated areas in Nigeria’s semi-desert northeast amid a crackdown in Maiduguri.
The ongoing offensive has been most heavily concentrated in these remote areas, particularly along the border with Cameroon.
Since the phony funeral attack, More than 60 alleged Boko Haram men killed in Maiduguri.
According to Nigeria’s Daily Post (http://dailypost.com.ng), over over 60 corpses of alleged Boko Haram terrorists killed during the weekend were deposited on Monday at the State Specialists’ Hospital. The feat was achieved through the help of some youth group, popularly called Civilian JTF, who volunteered to hunt for Boko Haram Terrorists in the state capital.
‘Civilian JTF’ Smoke Out Boko Haram Members From Hideouts In Maiduguri
“It was also gathered that the terrorists were arrested and handed over to the military by the youth who have allegedly been engaged by Borno state government and had been trained by the foremost hunter, Ali Quara, who specializes in hunting armed robbers and notorious criminals,” said the Daily Post.
Local youth fight back
The fight back against Boko Haram has been spearheaded by local youth who have declared they plan to “clean the state criminals and terrorists after several months of blood-letting by the dreaded Boko Haram sect.”
One of the Directors charged with the responsibility of evacuating corpses, who did not want his name in print told newsmen on Tuesday in Maiduguri that, the youth, who are now referred as “Civilian JTF” in Maiduguri have been making tremendous effort at hunting and catching members of the “dreaded sect, who seemed to have defies all effort to be arrested by the security officials.”
He said, “If you observe now, the security personnel are not oppressing the people as they were doing in the past. Now, it is the ‘Civilian JTF members’ who know these Boko Haram boys that go about identifying and arresting them, before handing them over to the JTF.”
According to him, “with this new arrangement, Borno would soon be cleansed of these bad elements and the peace we are all praying for, is almost at our door steps” adding that “what we need to do is to continue to pray for victory for these youth that have voluntarily put their lives in the lines for the sake of millions of Borno citizens who are being killed by the Boko Haram terrorists.”
He added that this was what Borno state should have done long time ago to prevent the killings of many innocent citizens.
“But everything has its own time. We did not know that one day some youth would come up, bundle a Boko Haram member and hand such over to the Military. That was impossible in the past, but now, it is the Boko Haram who are looking for where to hide.”
A former Director in the Ministry of Information, who asked for anonymity told the Daily Post that, he was reliably informed that, there were 300 youths that had been selected as 20 from each of the 15 wards on Maiduguri, and supported by a leader called Ali Quara and some of his boys.
One media report said, “Operating under the aegis of Civilian JTF, the youth vigilante groups who now act as whistle blowers and informants to the security operatives go from street to street and house to house with machetes, iron bars and wooden batons in their bid to smoke out the remnants of the insurgents from their hiding places and thereafter handing them over to the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno, Operation Restore Order.
Justifying their action, the youths, whose ages range from 15 and 30 years, said they were left with no choice than join in the manhunt of the insurgents for bringing untold hardship to residents of the town thus putting their own future in jeopardy.
“We are tired of this and we want to put an end to it. Since the soldiers don’t really know who the Boko Haram members are, then we who live with them and know them have no option than to help fish them out,” a leader of the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity to select journalists, said.
‘God is by our side’
A member of the group, Isa Musa, said, “We are into this to salvage our people from the Boko Haram who had killed our people, security operatives and destroyed our economy. We are not afraid of them because we are doing a just cause and God is by our side.”
Maintaining that all what they require is prayers from their people, a leader of one of the groups, Abubakar Malum, said their will and the support of everyone in the town was enough to keep them going.
“All we want is prayers from the people and their cooperation; we are working together with the JTF soldiers. We want government to assist us with more weapons like cutlasses, iron batons and axes.
“We have lost count of how many Boko Haram we have caught and handed over to the soldiers and we are going after more of them. We have caught one recently and when he was investigated, the security operatives found huge amount of money in his bank account,” Musa added.
So, sadly, the bloodletting continues unabated in Nigeria, and shows no signs of ending.