On 20 February, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) said it killed eight Islamist insurgents who had attacked civilians in a market in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Local residents said the Boko Haram attack on the market was apparently a reprisal against the arrest of a member by some traders four days earlier. On 16 February, a lone gunman had walked into the market on a killing mission; but as he was about to pull the trigger of his AK-47 rifle, some traders over-powered him. A local source said the group probably went back to the market to “teach the traders a bitter lesson” over their action, attacking them with explosive devices which then attracted the JTF’s intervention.
The spokesman for the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, said: “This afternoon, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram sect members attacked three civilians at the Baga Road Fish Market. The JTF men came on a rescue operation, engaged the suspects in a shoot-out and succeeded in killing eight of them”.
He further stated that “The JTF detonated three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and defused several others recovered from the attackers. We also recovered large number of arms and ammunition from them”. He said the JTF had cordoned off the entire area and a “come down and search operation” was going on to uncover any hidden weapons and IEDs. He added that no JTF soldier was wounded or killed in the shoot-out.
On 6 February, multiple blasts occurred at the Gamboru market and a nearby pharmaceutical store in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. There had been no official casualty report, but three persons were feared killed with several vehicles and shops razed.
Local sources said three blasts hit the ‘Yan Robobi area of the market and two others struck D.K Pharmacy, one of the biggest pharmaceutical stores in the city. The sources said the owner of the pharmacy and two of his employees were killed, as the explosives destroyed the building that housed the store.
Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, chief operations officer of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri, confirmed the explosions at the market to some newsmen but reportedly gave no further details.
Maiduguri is the base of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group responsible for a series of bomb and gun attacks against security operatives and institutions as well opposing Muslim clerics and Christians in several northern states of the country. Its attacks have killed more than 200 people in the past five weeks since the beginning of the year.
However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the market and the pharmacy store – or for the assassination of two persons in the Ummarari ward of the metropolis the previous night.
On 5 February, a group identifying itself as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), claimed responsibility for an attack on an oil pipeline owned by the Italian firm, Agip (Eni), in Bayelsa State. Witnesses had reported a fire on the company’s Nembe-Brass pipeline late the previous day.
In a statement sent to the media, the group said: “On Saturday, the 4th of February at 1930hrs, fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) attacked and destroyed the Agip (ENI) trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria”.
The statement added that: “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come”.
MEND was the main militant group in the Niger Delta and responsible for years of attacks on the oil industry. However, following the Federal Government’s offer of amnesty in 2009, virtually all of its known commanders and thousands of its fighters dropped their arms and joined the government’s re-orientation and rehabilitation programmes, which also guaranteed them monthly stipends from the government. Several thousands have been enrolled in vocational and academic training courses, in Nigeria and abroad.
MEND purportedly sent several threats to the media in 2010 and 2011, but the threatened attacks never materialized. Oil industry sources said most of the recent damage to oil infrastructure in the region had been caused by gangs stealing oil, rather than insurgent militants. Security sources add that these gangs lack the capacity to cause the level of damage and disruption that was seen in early 2011, when attacks slashed the country’s oil production by more than 50 per cent.
The military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta said: “JTF advices Niger Deltans to be mindful of people who are out to swindle them by wrongfully appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to curry sympathy for their selfish and criminal interests”.
Boko Haram confirms slaughtering 6 “traitors”, threatens more “executions” in Maiduguri, Borno State
On 2 February, a spokesman for the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, confirmed that it was his group that killed the six men slaughtered on the night of Wednesday 1 February, in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
The six men were killed in the Shehuri north area of the city, by assailants who trailed them to their houses around midnight and slaughtered them with knives. In a statement following the killings, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, had said preliminary investigations revealed the men were “slaughtered by persons suspected to be their fellow sect members”. He had also suggested that the killings “may have been as a result of division among sect members”.
In a telephone interview with some journalists in Maiduguri, the Boko Haram spokesman who identified himself as Abul Qaqa, confirmed the JTF’s revelation. He said the six men were slaughtered because they were among the traitors who betrayed 11 members of the sect, leading to their elimination by JTF four days earlier.
He further disclosed that the six men slaughtered were only part of a longer list of persons whom the group plans to eliminate. He said: “We have earmarked 30 of them for execution because they betrayed our group”.
It will be recalled that on 28 January, 11 members of Boko Haram were killed by JTF in Maiduguri. In the wake of those killings, the victims’ families had claimed that the men killed were not members of the militant sect, alleging human rights violations and demanding a probe.
The confirmation by the Boko Haram spokesman seems to have put paid to those denials and demands. It also seems to confirm the JTF’s suspicion of a feud within some members of the sect. It thus raises fears of further factional killings within the group in Maiduguri.
On 2 February, six persons were killed by unknown assailants in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. The military Joint Task Force (JTF) said the victims were probably members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, and may have been eliminated by their own colleagues.
The six people were killed while sleeping in their homes in Shehuri North, a northern part of the city known as the base of Boko Haram.
A statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, said the victims may have been killed by people suspected to be members of Boko Haram, as a result of a division within the sect.
Colonel Mohammed said: “Preliminary investigations reveal that the six deceased persons were suspected to have been slaughtered by persons suspected to be their fellow Boko Haram members….The killing may have been as a result of division among Boko Haram sect members”.
In other incidents, multiple blasts occurred in parts of the city early in the day. Col Mohammed confirmed that they were caused by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) but said there were no casualties. He said the JTF had also defused some unexploded devices and advised residents to remain security conscious and alert.
On 30 January, at least two persons were killed in a bloody fight between Fulani herdsmen and members of Ohoro community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. The two victims were said to have died of machete wounds.
There were reports that two other members of the community were shot dead by soldiers deployed in the area to restore peace; but the Media Coordinator of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Lt Col Timothy Antigha said: “There was no such thing”.
Local sources said trouble started when the herdsmen’s cows strayed into farmlands belonging to the community, and damaged crops. Angered by the trespass and damage, the farmers confronted the nomads. One source said the nomads suddenly attacked two of the farmers with daggers, killing them on the spot.
As news of the incident spread, youths in the community mobilized and went after the killers, in a bid to avenge the killing of their kinsmen; but they were unable to find the fleeing nomads. The youth then turned their anger against all Hausa-Fulani in the community, and sent many of them fleeing the area.
The near breakdown of law and order caused a major traffic gridlock along the Delta-Bayelsa stretch of the East-West Road. Reports of the incident also raised tensions as far as the state capital, Asaba, and other towns with Fulani residents.
This incident, coming at a time when many southerners are already fleeing deadly attacks by Islamist militants in the predominantly Hausa-Fulani far north of the country, could aggravate ethnic and religious relations in the Niger Delta.
However, the JTF said it had taken measures to restore peace in the Ohoro community and other towns in the area. Col Antigha said: “JTF is at the scene. Efforts are being made to calm down nerves with a view to commencing investigations”.
On 13 January, Maj Gen John Ewansiha assumed office as the new Commander of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri, Borno State, pledging to sustain the tempo of the anti-terrorism campaign and urging residents to cooperate with the military mission.
Speaking at the JTF’s headquarters in Pompomari, Maiduguri, while taking over from the former commander, Maj Gen Jack Nwaogbo (now redeployed to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja), Gen Ewansiha said he would sustain the work JTF had been doing under his predecessor.
He observed that as a result of JTF’s security measures and operations in Borno State, most members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, as well as violent criminals that had been terrorizing the state, had relocated to other states. He pledged that, under his command, the task force would spare no effort towards stopping serial killings and bombings in the state.
“People terrorizing the state should have a rethink, turn up their weapons and come out for dialogue with the appropriate authorities”, he declared.
The new commander also urged residents of Maiduguri and other violence-scared towns not to flee the state. He said the task force was applying comprehensive security measures to protect lives and property, particularly in the five local government areas under the state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan on 31 December 2011. He appealed to residents to shun rumour peddlers and cooperate with JTF by offering information that could facilitate the arrest of terrorists and criminals.
On the reported excesses of JTF personnel while carrying out their duties, he said the nation’s military does not condone indiscipline and that he would deal decisively with any of his men found violating the ‘Rules of Engagement’ or committing extra-judicial killings. He said: “The soldiers are not mad men and we have our code of conduct, and anyone who falls short is made to face the music”.
However, he also added that troops will defend themselves whenever they are attacked or endangered by terrorists and criminals.
On 17 December, three men suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect commonly known as Boko Haram, were killed in an explosion inside a bomb factory in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Briefing newsmen on the incident, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed reported that at about 9 am, an explosion occurred in Shehuri II area of Bolori in Maiduguri metropolis. He said JTF operatives rushed to the scene of the blast and found that it occurred in a house inhabited by unidentified men, suspected to be members of Boko Haram. They also found three mangled corpses at the scene.
Hassan said the area was immediately cordoned off while the Police Bomb Disposal Squad was called in for detailed investigations. He said the investigators confirmed that the house was being used by suspected members of Boko Haram as a major factory for the production of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
He further stated that large quantities of unused IED-making materials, including three drums containing gun powder, two AK-47 riffles, ammunition, remote controls, uniforms of the Police Mobile Force with ranks, injecting syringes, Jerry cans loaded with gas, one grinding machine, assorted containers of gun powder, tapes with Islamic inscriptions, laptop, video camera, GSM handsets, wall clocks and several prepared IEDs.
On 15 December, a bomb exploded in Gwange area of Maiduguri, Borno State, just as gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, killed two people and injured three on Santimari Polo Road.
According to the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, some members of Boko Haram detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Gwange ward at about 7.45pm. He said the men had targeted a JTF patrol vehicle, but that the vehicle had left the area by the time the device went off and that there was no casualty.
In the shooting incident, residents said at about 8pm, some gunmen came in an unmarked Volkswagen Golf car and opened fire on people playing cards in front of a shop owned by a GSM recharge card dealer.
One witness said he heard the gunmen saying to people: ‘Don’t run, don’t worry, we are not here for you. We have our target’. They shot two men to death, including the Head Teacher of COCIN Church Primary School in Polo. One report suggests they may have been targeting a security officer who usually comes to the shop, especially at night.
Col Hassan confirmed the incident. He said JTF men pursued two of the suspects who then abandoned their car and fled into the night. He said no arrest had been made, but that normalcy had been restored to the area.
The spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Isijeh Mohammed, said the improvised explosive device, planted in the middle of the road, detonated along Gomari junction at about 7.13 am.
Col Mohammed said the device was not targeted at any JTF men and did not cause any casualty. However, he said when JTF troops arrived at the scene, some attackers believed to be members of the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, opened fire on them, and the soldiers returned fire. He said the attackers fled after the shoot-out and that no arrests were made.
Boko Haram, an Islamist sect which is seeking stricter and more comprehensive implementation of Sharia across the northern states of the country, launched an uprising in 2009; but was firmly fought down by military and police forces that killed hundreds of its members and sacked its headquarters in Maiduguri.
Regrouping in 2010, the group has since organised a series of assassinations and bomb attacks, targeting security officers, community leaders and opposing clerics. In June, the Federal Government scaled up its military presence in Maiduguri and some other parts of Borno State, under the joint task force. Boko Haram has targetted JTF patrol units in many attacks, particularly over the last six weeks.