By SHEHU SANI
Continued from yesterday
Yesterday’s edition was a brillant narrative of how Mohammed Yusuf took advantage of the several lapses in the Nigerian State to recruit undergraduates ( many dropped out of school to join the sect) lecturers and administrators (who resigned their appointments) to build what is today known as Boko Haram. An interesting read. The series continues
THE shooting of 17 mourning followers of Sheik Yusuf by men of the Operation Flush raised concerns about the excesses and human rights abuse indulged in by the security outfit.
Investigations revealed that trouble began when the sect members were on their way to a cemetery in a procession to bury four of their members who died in a motor accident along Biu – Maiduguri road, a day earlier. Some of them who rode on motorbikes were intercepted by an Operation Flush patrol team and asked why they were not wearing crash elements.
The sect members did not take kindly to the enquiry which they thought was a provocation given that they were in a funeral procession. The Borno State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Christopher Dega, said the group had disagreement with members of the Joint military and police patrol team known as “Operation Flush” in Maiduguri “over traffic-related violations”.
He said “one thing led to another and a member of the patrol team stationed at the Custom’s roundabout opened fire to save his colleagues from the mob”. The members of the group and three onlookers were crowded in the process.
Those injured were rushed to the emergency unit of the Maiduguri Teaching Hospital where they were treated and discharged.
Days later, the cleric, Sheik Yusuf, made a pronouncement through his well circulated Friday sermon in Maiduguri to retaliate the shooting of his men, boasting that his group would be prepared to confront all the security agencies in the State as well as government which he described as the enemies of Islam. Government sources claimed President Umaru Yar’Adua and the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Abdullahi Sakin Muktar were adequately briefed on Mohammed’s threats.
The Bauchi Strike
The Boko Haram men were largely known to have lived at Jadaman Mada and near the Airport where they have their jummat mosque. They neither bought vended food, nor ate prepared meals by non members, due to its sources (Haram).
In fact, they do not eat much, some of them are said to live on fruits and Dates only. They normally dress in similar costumes as the Taliban of Afghanistan or Pakistan, with long sleeve robe, shortened trousers, a turban, long beard, a small coat the long sleeve robe, covering the abdomen (like a bullet proof jacket) and a chewing stick.
That fateful day on July 26, 2009, a small group of about 30 youths marched towards the Dutsen Tanship Police Station in Bauchi Town around 6.00am. All of them carried assorted weapons that included matchetes, bows and arrows, daggers and a dane gun.
The police seemed to be prepared as they opened fire on them as soon as they attacked. Five of them were left dead instantly. Soon the police inconjunction with the military swiftly surrounded the entire house suspected to be their abode, early that morning.
Most of their belongings were taken and displaced for official inspection. Items found include military uniforms, boots, live ammunition, shells, locally made explosives, a lethal gun powder.
Immediately after the encounter, the houses belonging to the sect were destroyed by the authorities. Those who were neither killed nor arrested vanished into thin air. Most of those arrested were found to be indigenes of Yobe and Borno States.
In a chat with newsmen that fateful Sunday morning, Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame said the police will further its investigations to ensure that all those connected with the attack were arrested, while their sponsors would be brought to justice, irrespective of their status in society.
Governor Isa Yuguda told newsmen he was satisfied with the commitment and accuracy of the security operatives. “This calls for celebration as we have succeeded in pre-emptying them”.
He indicated that intelligence report had shown that they had prepared well to attack, but government preempt them and caused them to be on the defensive. He said that he had earlier warned his neighbouring colleagues and had informed them of his intention that is why there were less civilian involvement in the conflict.
“This is not a religious violence. It is a case of military. I consider them as lunatics who should be referred to the psychiatrist. In fact, their action is not religious, but a case of wanton militancy,” Yuguda said.
The Assistant Inspector General (IGP) of Police, Zone 12, Mr. Moses Anegboda confirmed that 41 persons were killed in the crisis between the police and the sect. He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that 39 persons were members of the group while a policeman and a soldier were also killed.
He said 176 suspected members of the sect had been arrested. The police according to him were working in collaboration with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to draw up charges for the prosecution of the suspects.
“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 potasium, one base 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 to a hide out at Mamudo, where security agent swooped on them. Three police officers and one Fire Service officer died during 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 extremists at a location opposite CGC Construction Company, near Mamudo village along Damaturu – Potiskum Road.
“The encounter with the hoodlum left 33 of the extremists dead. Six rifles, one pistol, one dane gun, three AK-47, empty magarines, 32 rounds of 7.62 mmm live ammunition and 81 of nine live ammunitions were recovered from the suspects”.
Abba said the extremists used 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.
“Two of the suspects who 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,”he said.
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 was full of gratitude to 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 station and hospitals to escape being killed.
The house and mosque of the sect leader in wudil, Salihu Al-min model at Sabon gari was demolished by the Kano State Police Command order. The police are however still on wudil’s trail. He went into hiding following the attack on Wudil Police Station.
The building were 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 the mobile force was drafted to Wudil before the demolition to forestall resistance from remnant of Boko Haram followers.