Six passengers travelling in two buses along the Maiduguri – Kano highway were on Saturday hacked to death by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in an ambush on the outskirts of Maiduguri, witnesses said.
The news about the attacked travelers filtered around Maiduguri since Sunday but there was no official statement to corroborate the report.
An official of the Borno youth vigilante body, Civilian-JTF, Danbatta Bello, who earlier denied knowledge of the incident, later returned PREMIUM TIMES’ call to confirm the attack.
Mr Bello, a senior officer at the C-JTF said one of the ambushed passenger buses belongs to the Borno State government-owned transport company, Borno Express.
He said the two 18-seater passenger buses were heading to Maiduguri from Damaturu, Yobe State capital, late Saturday evening when they were ambushed by gunmen.
“Six males were summarily killed while the remaining passengers, mostly women and children, and the Borno Express bus driver, were driven away, ” said Mr Bello.
He said the security agencies in Borno got hint of an attack but no one had detailed information on the kind of vehicles involved.
Mr Bello said they later got to know about the incident on Wednesday when the bus driver made it back on foot.
“According to the bus driver, who is now visibly traumatised, he was made to drive the bus far into the jungles that night until when his vehicle eventually ran out of gas,” said the C-JTF chieftain.
“The driver said they got to a remote area called Katapilla Bini on the way to Alagarno when his vehicle ran out of fuel. It was about 3 am in the morning and there was no way they (could) help the situation. So the insurgents, according to the driver, decided to abandon him and the women with a warning that they should find their way out of the jungle or risk being killed should another gang of Boko Haram to be on duty the next day finds them.”
The driver was also advised to run for his life.
PREMIUM TIMES learned that the seven women and three children, led by the driver began their journey back on foot until they got to a military check at Njimtilo suburb of Maiduguri the next morning.
“When the driver got to us in Maiduguri, to inform us about the incident and about his abandoned bus, we mobilised ourselves, and since we know the direction of Katapila Bini, which is a remote location near a riverbank that one must cross over to get to Alagarno.
“It took us about five hours to get to Katapila Bini and we were able to get the bus before returning to Maiduguri on Thursday evening.”
Mr Danbatta said the rescued women have been reunited with their families while the bus was handed over to the Borno State police command.
Sale Habib, a relative of some of the victims said his brother, Bakari Abuna, was killed and two other male siblings have been injured – one, from a bullet fired around his neck, and the other with deep cuts from an axe.
“Three of the abducted women and their five children including the three men were all my family members,” he said.
“They left Suleja on Saturday and got to Damaturu by 6 pm. They had even called to inform us that they have arrived in Damaturu and we advised they should pass the night. But we later learnt that the driver joined other drivers to proceed with the remaining trip to Maiduguri.”
He said the two vehicles tailed one another through the dangerous route until they ran into an ambush around 8 pm at a location not far away from Maiduguri.
“I personally went to pick the women at the military checkpoint in the morning of Sunday. I found out that my brother, Bakari Abuna and five others were killed,” Mr Habib said.
When contacted, the Borno State police public relations officer, Edet Okon, said he was not “aware of this information.”