Battle rages at Gamboru as sect seizes Madagali
Boko Haram was yesterday fighting desperately to defend its “Islamic Caliphate” as troops turned on the heat to dislodge its men from a key town.
The insurgents first sacked an army barracks in Ngala before proceeding to Gamboru about three kilometers away.
The Islamist terror group made further advances in territorial grab by once more taking over Gamboru-Ngala, a key township on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Its fighters were heavily armed. It was the second time Boko Haram fighters targeted and seized parts of the town.
In a response to the attacks, the Nigerian Air Force jet dropped a massive bomb in the middle of Gamboru, after hovering for several minutes in the air. The jet then left while the militants began a house-to-house raid in Gamboru.
A contingent of Nigerian troops was later seen massing close to a bridge earlier destroyed by insurgents during their first attack on Gamboru, according to a BBC report.
A security source said Boko Haram desperately wanted to seize full control of Gamboru-Ngala because the extensive area offers great strategic advantages. “If they completely capture the township, Boko Haram will be able to use it to transact economic and military business,” said the source. “The township will enable them to freely move arms into Nigeria in order to fortify their control of the seized territories they have declared an Islamic Caliphate.”
In a video released on Sunday, the insurgent leader, Abubakar Shekau, stated that his group did not recognise Nigeria. Instead, he declared that the sect had established a caliphate, or Islamic geopolitical entity.
Among towns and areas under the sect’s control are Gwoza and Marte in Borno State, Buni Yadi in Yobe State and Madagali in Adamawa State.
The attack forced thousands of people to flee.
The attack on Gamboru Ngala came after the town was almost entirely destroyed in May in a devastating assault that also left more than 300 people killed and prompted outrage at the lack of military response.
Many local residents sought refuge across the border in the northern Cameroon town of Fotokol, where troop reinforcements were being sent, a security service source told AFP.
Boko Haram, which has been blamed for more than 10,000 deaths in a five-year-old uprising, has in recent weeks sought to take over some towns in Borno State, shifting from hit-and-run tactics to an apparent holding strategy.
Residents said yesterday’s attack began at about 05:30, with the extremists launching coordinated strikes on the main police station and a military base known as the Harmony Camp.
“The sounds (of gunfire) became more deafening as police and soldiers responded to Boko Haram,” said witness Hamisu Lawan. “Most of our people have fled into Cameroon.”
Others locked themselves in their homes, voicing fears that the militants would turn their guns on civilians once they had overrun the police station and the military camp.
Residents in Fotokol, which is separated from Gamboru-Ngala by a river, also reported “intense” fighting throughout the morning.
“(Cameroonian) soldiers are at the bridge,” one said.
Cameroon said on August 18 that it had closed its vast border with Nigeria to guard against the spread of Ebola, which has caused five deaths in the country’s financial capital, Lagos, in the far southwest.
But few believed that Cameroon had the resources needed to seal all the possible crossing points along the roughly 1 600km frontier.
Local officials and residents in Borno said Boko Haram might be in control of a key road that connects Gamboru-Ngala to Maiduguri, the state capital.
Establishing which parts of the area have in fact fallen into rebels’ hands is difficult in the remote region, where travel is dangerous and prolonged fighting has hit mobile phone networks.
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