…Troops dislodge terrorists from town, as UN condemns attack
By Kingsley Omonobi & Ndahi Marama
Boko Haram insurgents have attacked Dikwa Local Government Area, LGA, of Borno State and abducted no fewer than seven aid workers.
The insurgents during the attack also burnt the offices of the aid workers, destroyed government facilities, and hospitals belonging to Non-Governmental Organisations, NGOs.
This came as reports said troops of Operation Lafiya Dole had routed elements of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, who attempted to attack Dikwa Town in Borno.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier.-General, Mohammed Yerima, in a statement in Abuja, said the terrorists had on Monday stormed the town in an unconfirmed number of gun trucks and motorcycles.
He said that the terrorists were visited with heavy bombardment and overwhelming firepower by troops of 81 Task Force Battalion and complemented by the Air Task Force.
He said that the terrorists attempted to invade the town to loot food items and other logistics, having got wind of the recent food distribution to residents of the town by Gov. Babagana Zulum.
According to the statement, “They came in droves through the Marte axis but could not gain access to the town due to the combat readiness of troops positioned there. The terrorists subsequently lost initiative as they were cut off completely, following the recent successful recapture of Marte town by the gallant troops. In desperation and to scare off residents from returning to their homes, they planted series of landmines on the roads which were also detected and successfully detonated by troops.”
Yerima, however, debunked the reports by some social media suggesting that the terrorists attacked UN Base, trapping 25 aid workers, as published by some outlets.
He described the reports as false and sensational, saying they were clearly aimed at stirring tension in the region and diminishing the glaring efforts and sacrifices of the military in the fight against insurgency.
According to him, the Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, had commended the efforts of the gallant troops and the prompt response of the Air Task Force in providing air interdictions throughout the operation.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness said the insurgents stormed the town at 5:30 pm on Monday evening, and had since been in control of the town.
The eyewitness said troops had been battling to dislodge the town throughout the night.
Reinforcement from Ajiri town was ambushed by the insurgents in the early hours of yesterday which slowed attempt to engage the Boko Haram insurgents when they struck.
The insurgents took total control of the town before destroying a humanitarian hub which caters for over 100,000 persons, mostly Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who were desperately in need of food and shelter.
Some aid workers narrated how the insurgents set ablaze buildings and health facilities belonging to humanitarian workers.
The attack came 24 hours after Governor Babagana Zulum of the state, returned to Maiduguri, after spending three nights in Dikwa.
Zulum left Maiduguri on Wednesday, a day after Marte was liberated, and proceeded to Dikwa where he stayed till Saturday, and returned to Maiduguri on Sunday.
Residents trapped in Dikwa said the insurgents were at present, moving freely in the town, and had mounted a checkpoint at the exit, preventing people from fleeing to Maiduguri.
The Chief of Army staff had recently visited the headquarters of the Army Super Camp 9 located in Dikwa, where he gave troops a 48-hour ultimatum to clear insurgents from neighboring Marte Local Government Area.
At least 35,000 persons had fled Marte to Dikwa when the insurgents attacked.
Reacting to the attack, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, UN-OCHA, condemned the attack.
The UN in a statement signed by the UN- OCHA Coordinator, Edward Kallon, said: ” I am gravely preoccupied by reports of an ongoing violent attack by non-state armed groups in Dikwa,
Borno State, during which several aid facilities were directly targeted. The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze or sustained damage.
“I strongly condemn the attack and am deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.
”This violent attack will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State.
”Civilians and aid workers, their facilities and assets should never be a target. They must be protected and respected at all times.
”I call on all armed parties to immediately stop the violence and respect international humanitarian law and human rights law, and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property and personnel.”