By Ndahi Marama
MAIDUGURI— Suspected Boko Haram gunmen in a convoy of Toyota Hilux vehicles and motorcycles attacked Damasak town in Borno State, yesterday, with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and petrol bombs, killing scores of residents.
The gunmen were said to have stormed the town around 7 am.
Damasak is a border town with Niger and 187 kilometres north of Maiduguri, the state capital.
The gunmen, according to Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) sources in Maiduguri, also torched and looted several houses and shops, before the soldiers rushed to the border town by 11.45pm, yesterday.
“I cannot give you the exact number of people killed today (yesterday) here in Damasak, but many people were killed while fleeing into the river and to Gashigar and Diffa towns for safety. The gunmen used IEDs and petrol bombs in attacking this town in the morning while most residents were still in their houses,” said the MJTF source, yesterday.
Gunmen disguise as traders
Another account of the attack had it that the gunmen disguised as traders and opened fire at a crowded market in the town.
A military officer, who had direct knowledge of the raid, told AFP that “the terrorists disguised as traders and opened fire on unsuspecting traders at a market in Damasak.”
Another witness, Mohammed Damasak, who works with the local government, said the weapons were concealed in containers the gunmen brought to the market.
“They pretended to be traders but sadly inflicted horror. Many traders escaped with bullet wounds while many are lying dead at the market,” he added.
Confirming yesterday’s attack, Senator Maina Ma’aji Lawan said one of the border towns in the Borno North Senatorial District was attacked, yesterday, by suspected Boko Haram Islamic militants with many residents killed, while others fled to Niger and into River Kumadugu for safety.
Lawan in telephone interview said: “The residents of Damasak, a border town with Niger, are in confusion with sporadic gunshots and looting of shops and houses. The reports I am receiving, as I speak, indicated that a lot of houses and shops there were set ablaze by insurgents that struck Monday morning. Most of the gunmen dressed in military uniform to disguise as Nigerian soldiers sent to protect Damasak, only to launch multiple attacks on this border town with a population of over 250,500.
“The firing powers of the gunmen overwhelmed our soldiers in the MJTF, so what they did was to flee the town for safety like the residents that fled into Niger and river this morning.”
The attack and killings in Damasak came barely 24 hours after the terrorists killed 48 fishermen and traders, weekend, at Doron Baga, 155 kilometres east of Damasak, the council headquarters of Mobbar in Borno State.