5 Jan 2015

Boko Haram capture Baga town; ...civilians and soldiers flee

Baga, a town that has suffered several attacks from the Boko Haram in the past two years, fell to insurgents who overpowered soldiers of the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, and wrecked havoc on residents and property on Saturday, witnesses, a lawmaker, and security officials have said.

Many resident of Baga, a fishing community in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, who were lucky to escape the attack are now taking refuge in Chad Republic. Some, who could not swim through the lake, or get on canoes, reportedly drowned.

Some of the fleeing residents, who managed to call their relatives in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, using Chadian phones, said many women, children and aged ones who couldn’t get canoes and boats to escape, died in the rivers.

Witnesses said the attackers arrived on several four-wheel trucks and motorcycles and used high caliber rifles and explosives to attack both soldiers and civilians.
“They attacked and burnt our homes, business premises and parts of the seized MNJTF base”, said Audu Labo, a displaced resident who spoke via the phone of a relative in Maiduguri from Chad. “The soldiers were overpowered and had to abandon their post and fled for safety.”

“It was in the very early hours of Saturday morning that they came into Baga in their hundreds, driving several Hilux Patrol Vehicles, trucks and some on motorcycles as they immediately began to throw explosives and bombs coming out from long rifles they carry on their shoulders (rocket propelled grenades) as well as those rifles called AK47,” Mr. Labo said.
Mr. Labo and other survivors said soldiers initially engaged the insurgents but had to flee to superior fire power.
“We ran for several hours before we got to the Lake and from there some of us who could not get on the boats had to swim across to Chad Republic,” Mr. Labo said.
He said residents avoided the land routes to Chad because Boko Haram gunmen had already taken over the routes.
 

It was learnt that some of the soldiers had to disguise as civilians by pulling off their uniforms and boots to avoid being spotted by the terrorists.
“We all were running for our dear lives; even the soldiers had to pull off their uniforms and some of us had to volunteer our clothes for them to disguise so that they could escape into Chad safely”, a survivor, who sought anonymity for security reasons, said.

Credit: Ola' Audu/PremiumTimes

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