by James Sambo
Militants fighting for the terrorist group Boko Haram Monday failed in their bid to capture Bama, Borno’s second most populous town as Nigerian troops repelled the attack killing at least 45 insurgents. Located about 60 kilometres from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, Bama has an estimated population of a population of 269,986 according to the 2006 census.
The insurgents were said to have attacked the town in military vehicles and camouflage in a bid to over-run the area. Thirty Boko Haram members were said to have sustained serious injuries during the attack which started around 5:30 am and lasted over five hours.
A resident of Maiduguri, Mark Sulai, told YNaija that at least 200 Boko Haram fighters with heavy weaponry raided Bama in the early hours of Monday. “I saw a convoy of over 25 military vehicles and armoured cars moving towards Bama town from Maiduguri between after 10 am,” he said.
Security sources who wished to remain anonymous said that the insurgents met heavy resistance from the military which repelled their advance, killing more than forty of them. Another thirty Boko Haram insurgents also sustained varying degrees of injuries before being forced to beat a retreat through the bush with some others fleeing through the highway.
Narrating their experiences, residents said they were woken up by the heavy bombardment as deafening gunshots rent the air.
“Everyone was thrown into pandemonium as we continue to hear deafening gunshots and we were later to hear that over 200 Boko Haram terrorists attempted to capture the town.
“We also learnt that they stormed the town through Bama-Banki-Gwoza Road but they were intercepted by gallant military troops near the Bama Mobile Police Unit located about 5 kilometres away from the centre of the town.
“They were believed to have tactically attempted to enter Bama town in a convoy of military vehicles and motorcycles, dressed in military uniform and armed with sophisticated weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs),” a resident said.
According to the source, sophisticated weapons such as Rocket Propelled Grenades RPGs as well as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were freely deployed during the battle as many residents fled the town through the bush paths to neighbouring villages such as Konduga and even Maiduguri.
A resident, Mohammed Bunu Ahmed who spoke with the Reuters news agency said, “There was an attempt by the insurgents to enter Bama and capture it as they did to Gwoza few weeks back .
“But thank God for the good efforts of the military troops stationed near the mobile police unit who repelled the attack with the assistance of their colleagues from the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army who gallantly succeeded in repelling them after successfully killing over 59 insurgents and injuring over 30.”
According to him, “the whole episode was so scary, many of our people had to flee to Maiduguri for safety while some stayed back in Konduga with some others still taking refuge in some villages around the town.”
Another resident of Bama, Masa Bukar, who escaped to Maiduguri said that they were waiting for the intervention of National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and state government as well as other well meaning members of the society.
“We are here because we woke up this morning to the sound of explosion enveloping us. As early as during the Subh prayer (4:45am), we heard gunshots and RPGs shots around the Technical College and Mobile Police Unit police along Banki road.
“We were advised by the military and Civilian JTF to leave the town so as to allow them confront the insurgents with minimum collateral damage. This made us flee the town,” he explained.
According to him, many fleeing residents of the town had to stop along the way in Kawuri or Goniri or Konduga, “but we decided to come to straight away to Maiduguri where the military presence is high. We were very afraid.”
He added that as they were heading towards Maiduguri, they saw a convoy of Army tanks moving towards Bama, “and we believe that the battle should still be on”.
Speaking in Maiduguri, another Bama resident said that himself and his fellow refugees are happy about the gallantry shown by the military in the area, and the relocation of the 21 Armoured Brigade Battalion to Bama. He said if not for the gallantry of the soldiers, the town would have fallen to the insurgents.
“Even the reinforcement being done by the GOC now is a clear indication that the military is serious and ready to rid the state of the insurgency unlike in the past,” he said.
Efforts to reach the spokesman of the 7 Division of Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Colonel Usman Sani, failed as his phone was switched off.