Hundreds of soldiers have been reportedly forced to flee Marte, a border town along the shores of Lake Chad, as Boko Haram insurgents struck in the area, a local official and witnesses said Friday.
“The terrorists, numbering over 2,000, appeared from various directions on Thursday and engaged the soldiers in Kirenowa town and adjoining communities in Marte”, said Imamu Habeeb, a local community leader.
“They fought with soldiers over the night and the fight continued today (Friday), forcing hundreds of soldiers to flee”, Habeeb added from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
A local vigilante, Shehu Dan Baiwa, said that more than 2,000 Boko Haram fighters had been armed with bombs and tanks, contrary to reports that the insurgents had resorted to using bow and arrows.
“They used the weapons without restraint and succeeded in killing several people”, he said.
This is the third time the terrorists have taken control of Marte in the troubled northeastern state of Borno, a key battleground of their six-year insurgency, which has led to the death of more than 13,000 persons and displaced 1.5 million others.
The city is among several retaken in recent weeks by Nigeria’s military, which has launched a massive offensive against the insurgents in collaboration with its Nigerien, Chadian and Cameroonian counterparts.
Earlier this week, Nigerian troops were forced to retreat from Boko Haram’s last known stronghold, the Sambisa Forest, after a landmine killed one soldier and three vigilantes.
Confirming that the insurgents had retaken Marte, a top politician in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We lost many (people) because some of our people that fled to Chad and Cameroon have return after Nigerian troops recovered the town recently”.
A senior military official also confirmed the attack on Marte, but refused to say whether Boko Haram had retaken the town, describing the army’s retreat as “strategic”.