Soldiers yesterday ran for their dear lives as Boko Haram insurgents continue their deadly attacks in Northern Nigeria, towards Maiduguri, reports have said.
“We all live in fear,” a resident explained to Vanguard. “Because soldiers come into our houses, take off their uniforms and put on civilian clothes. So if the military is already fleeing the fight, we don’t stand a chance.”
Gwoza, Bama, Gulak, Michika, Duhu, Shuwa, Kirshinga have been captured by the Islamists, as they continue capturing new cities on an almost daily basis.
Official sources however say that Bama is once again under government control and that Maiduguri is safe for now.
The insurgents arrive in hijacked army vehicles as they fight off the Nigerian troops and terrorise the residents.
“Boko Haram are committing all kinds of atrocities killing and raping. At the same time they are taking young girls in batches and the city is littered with dead bodies,” said Senator Ahmed Zanna.
Zanna recounts how the soldiers who were supposed to defend Bama, refused to advance any further, noting, “They were ill equipped and they just stayed in Kondudga.” Bama is just 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) from Maiduguri and fell to the Islamists four days ago.
The Islamists apparently target Maiduguri, which would be a major win for them as they hope to create an Islamist-ruled state.
“Even a brief capture of Borno’s capital, will be a significant symbolic victory for Boko Haram,” said Ryan Cummings, a South African security expert, who is also a member of the Nigerian Security Networks. Capturing Maiduguri would give Boko Haram a very strong boost, believes the Nigerian expert Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group. With Maiduguri, the Islamists would not only control a major city but also an international airport.
Military officers lament the precarious situation thy have found themselves, saying: “We cannot do anything against Boko Haram, because most of the Boko Haram are using modern automatic weapons and the military is using AK47s.”
A reporter Mubi in Adamawa State said the town can also fall prey to Boko Haram as the insurgents continue to advance.
Thousands of people were said to have have fled the fighting.
In Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, residents have taken in those who had to leave their homes, while in Maiduguri, residents are now also preparing to leave as the terrorists move closer to the city.
“The people are scared. Many have already left the city,” said a woman who chose to remain anonymous. “We who remain here, hope that God will help us.”
Having lost faith in the ability of soldiers to protect them, residents who have decided to stay no matter what, have started arming themselves. Thousands of young men were also said to have now gathered in Maiduguri and are demanding that the government recognize them as local defence groups, so that they can officially support the soldiers.
“There are soldiers in the city, but they are not well-armed,” explained a resident who had trouble sleeping. Even the Senator Ahmed Zanna is unsure whether the army can defend Maiduguri: “If Bama with an army of 1,000 can fall within three to five hours, then there is every likelihood that these people will advance towards Maiduguri,” the resident said.