BOKO HARAM: History, ideas and revolt (8)

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The tale of the conflict between the Boko Haram sect and the Nigeria Police Force continues with account of how it all began. The leader of the sect was said to have threatened dire retaliation for the killing of his members by Police. So after many clashes, several lives were lost in Bauchi, Yobe and Borno.

‘THE police will continue to do 24 hours surveillance and mop-up operations on the activities of the sect across the zone,” he said. The AIG noted that about 210 weapons were recovered from the sect with 200 detonates, two corrusters, two bags of lethal gun powders, seven bags of poltesum, one basin of nitrate used for making explosives and an AK-47.

Reactions of Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf

The leader of the sect in his reaction said his group will not take kindly to the killing of dozens of its supporters in Bauchi. While speaking to journalists on the clashes between his supporters and the police in Bauchi, he said his men were ready to die to ensure the institution of a strict Islamic society.

The Yobe crises

Few days later, the Bauchi conflicts between the Boko Haram sect and the security operatives spread to Yobe State. The sect members launched attack on the Central Police Station on Potiskum on Monday and soon retreated into a hide-out at Mamudo, where security agents swooped on them.

Three police officers and one fire service officer died in the clash. Briefing reporters in his office, Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Abba, said: “At about 0800 hours, a combined team of the Police/Army launched a counter- attack on the hide-out of the extremist at a location opposite CGC Construction Company, near Mamudo village along Damaturu – Potiskum Road.

The encounter with the hoodlums left 33 of the extremists dead. Six rifles, one pistol, one dane gun, three AK-47, empty magazines, 32 rounds of 7.62 mmm live ammunition and 81 of nine live ammunitions were recovered from the suspects”.

Abba said the extremists were using a bus and a J5 vehicle with registration number XB 591 KTG and XA 888 MKA. The vehicles, he said, were equally recovered by the security agents. He said: “Two of the suspects that escaped from the scene were arrested at Potiskum town based on information from members of the public and two other suspects were arrested in Fika. Information has it that the Boko Haram sect were about 50 in number when the attack was launched at their hide-outs. Some of the suspects snatched a Hilux vehicle belonging to Yobe State government around Mamudo and escaped into the bush. A man hunt for the fleeing suspects has been launched by the security agents with a view to arresting the suspects.”

Response of the Governor

Governor Ibrahim Geidem condemning the sectarian strife, described it as an embarrassment to Islam. The Governor was at the Police Command Headquarters on Gugbe Road in Damaturu. He thanked the Police and other security agencies for containing the situation. The combined team of soldiers and policemen embarked on a house-to-house search for this sect. The security men were said to have stormed houses occupied by the sect members, freeing hundreds of women and children. The sect believed that women and children should be kept indoors. No fewer than 2000 people were said to have fled to police stations and hospitals to escape being killed.

In Kano

The house and mosque of the sect leader Wudil, Salihu Al-min model, at Sabon gari was demolished by the Kano State Police Command. The Police are, however, still on Wudil’s trail. He went into hiding following the attack on Wudil Police Station. The building was marked “illegal structure” before demolition. Before dawn the building was pulled down, including his mosque. Men of the Kano State Urban Development Authority were directed to destroy the structure. A government source said one unit of Mobile Police Force was drafted to Wudil before the demolition to forestall resistance from remnant of Boko Haram followers.

During the raid on Wudil’s house, explosive substances, including fuel bottle, jack knife, dane gun, locally made pistol, arrows and charms were discovered. According to the Police Command Anti-bomb Unit, a bag of yellow powdered substance discovered in the house contained 15 per cent charcoal, 25 per cent potassium nitrate, 20 per cent sulphur which is highly inflammable when ignited with fire.

Arrests were made. At the Bompai Police Headquarters, in Kano, a member of the Boko Haram arrested told journalists that he was not disturbed by this present condition. He said as he groaned in pain: “Allah be praised, we are simply passing a period of tribulation and I know that even if I die now, I would be hugely rewarded by Allah. They cannot stop us. We must propagate the message of Allah. Only sharia we believe and Western education is a taboo.”

The Maiduguri main battle andthe bomb blast

A few hours after the Borno State Police Command paraded nine followers of Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, with 74 locally made bomb shells in Biu local government area, a locally-made bomb exploded in the residence of another followers, blasting him to death, while his friend sustained severe injuries and is being hospitalized at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

The follower, whose name was given as Hassan Sani Badamu from Biu was killed on (Friday July 20) night after the explosion occurred in his bedroom at his residence in Gwaindangari, behind Railway Quarters, while he was with a friend, also a follower of Yusuf. A guide book on bomb making was recovered from the blasted room, Commander of a joint military and police petrol team, tagged Operation Flush, Colonel Ben Ahanotu told newsmen.

Wife of the deceased sect member, Zainab Dauda, who was weeping while answering questions from newsmen, narrated that she was in the kitchen preparing evening meal for her husband when she heard a loud explosion from the room and before she knew what was happening, her husband was lying in his own blood, while his friend who was inside the bedroom with the husband was rushed to the hospital by members of the Operation Flush who rushed to the scene.

Carrying of weapons

Zainab who said she was pregnant, as she held her four-year-old son, added that she had been advising her late husband to stay away from the sect as she had been told that the group carried weapons. Zainab said, crying: “I had always warned my husband to leave that group; I was told that they moved about with knives and because of my fear, I used to check my husband’s handbags which he used when he was going for activities of the sect, but every time, I checked, I only saw copies of Holy Quran. I didn’t even know his friend was inside his room, I was in the kitchen.”

Commander of Operation Flush, Ben Ahanotu told journalists that they received intelligence report that the man was trying to fix something in the locally-made bomb along with his friend, when it exploded and killed him. He said when security men arrived at the scene, the man was found dismembered and he gave up the ghost after he was taken to hospital. Colonel Ahanotu said that some components for making local bombs were recovered from the scene. He said security men were working round the clock to guarantee peace and security of lives and property in the state.

On Friday afternoon, the Police had paraded more members of the sect in whose possession 74 empty home-made bomb shells and bomb head were found. Other items found in the possession of the nine were three swords, three bags containing gun powder, 11 motorcycles filters, one tin of plastic filter, bottle of methanol, explosive acids, seven rubber containers of sodium chemicals, an equipment for measuring chemicals, two screw drivers, and other components for making bombs.

The Maiduguri battles

In Maiduguri, the sect members appeared to have grouped themselves on batches and simultaneously attacked targets around the city at about 12.30am. They laid ambush at the State Police Headquarters, sparking off a shoot-out that lasted for over three hours. Fifty of the sect followers were killed there and the others retreated.

In the various battles, at least eight police officers, two soldiers and three prison officers were reportedly killed, the new prison in the city was broken and prisoners freed, while homes of policemen and police stations were also set ablaze in an apparent fulfillment of the promises of retaliation made by the sects leader, Sheikh Yusuf. The sect members killed a police sergeant by the gate of the police headquarters, burnt nine residents of mobile police trainees college near the city and also killed four policemen undergoing promotional courses in the college.

They also killed the second-in-command officer of a mobile police unit whose name was given as Superintendent Usman Farouk. Somewhere in the city, another batch of the sect members overpowered men of the Nigerian Prison and freed inmates. A team of the sect members also killed a policeman at the residence of the Commandant of the Mobile Police Training College. They also burnt Lamisula and Gamburu Police Stations in Maiduguri and vandalized property. The sect member had a long exchange of fire with men of Operation Flush, a combined military and police anti-robbery team.

A similar attack was reportedly launched by the sect members in Damasak Headquarters of Mobber Local Government Area of the state and killed a policeman. All activities were brought to standstill in Maiduguri as fewer vehicles moved around amidst intense stop and search mounted by the Police and the military. Communications were disrupted and telecoms installations in Maiduguri were attacked.

Later in the day, Governor Ali Modu Sheriff declared a dusk-to- dawn curfew in all parts of Maiduguri and Jere, a neighbouring local government area. The Governor’s Director of Press, Usman Chiroma, said in a statement that the curfew was from 7.00pm to 6am and will continue until security situation improves.

Security response

The next day, security forces raided the enclave of the radical Boko Haram sect in Maiduguri in an attempt to crush the group whose supporters ignited violence in five states where more than 200 persons, including security personnel, died. The army moved in six light armoured war tanks and deployed hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and mobile policemen and regular policemen around Maiduguri to destroy the residents of the sect leaders, Yusuf, which also serve as the group’s headquarters.

The security forces also cordoned off Maiduguri, Galadima, Kasuwan Sharu and low cost areas, which have been under the control of the sect members since Sunday nights when the crises began. The military action came a day after more than 150 people were killed in Borno, Yobe and Kano States in a gun battles between the sects followers and security forces.

Comrade  SHEHU SANI is leader of the  Socialist Front and Northern Civil Rights Society Coalition

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