Boko Haram fighters defied Nigerian military security and stormed a major community in Yobe State on Wednesday, leaving at least eight soldiers killed and many others wounded, military sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
It was a major market day in Geidam when the insurgents arrived in a convoy of 12 gun trucks at about 6:00 p.m., sending residents and traders from nearby communities scampering for safety. The insurgents looted several grocery stores before torching them.
The main campus of Mai Idris Alooma Polytechnic in the community was also attacked, with its technical equipment plundered.
Military sources said one of the eight military casualties occurred there. The soldier was amongst a team of security personnel, which included police officers, guarding the institution. Many of them fled in the battle.
In separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES under anonymity on Friday morning, military officers were troubled by Boko Haram’s ability to inflict such damage on an area that had long been fortified to serve as a buffer against unchecked movement of insurgents south of River Komadougou-Yobe.
Geidam has been regularly targeted since November 2011 when Boko Haram launched a string of deadly assaults on residents in the community and Damaturu, the state capital. The military, however, moved swiftly to frustrate easy movement of the insurgents by setting up bases in the communities near River Komadougou-Yobe, which is a minor tributary of the Lake Chad.
While other Yobe communities, especially Buni Yadi, live in fear of regular Boko Haram attacks, Geidam was relatively calm, which security analysts credit to the military’s ability to prevent terrorists from using the nearby river.
But the military base in Geidam, which sits near the border with Diffa, Niger Republic, was perhaps the first target of the latest deadly raid, according to military sources.
The assault, which bore markings of Islamic State’s elements in Boko Haram, forced several soldiers to flee between Wednesday evening when it began and Thursday morning when it ended.
It was not immediately clear how many soldiers fled, or the level of resistance the insurgents encountered during the 12-hour-long operation, but military sources said many of the soldiers engaged fiercely with the attackers while some of their colleagues fled.
The military was silent about the attacks on all its social media pages as of early Friday morning, and no official statement was forwarded to reporters about the aftermath.
Onyema Nwachukwu, a Nigerian Army colonel and spokesperson for the counter-insurgency unit in Nigeria’s North-East, did not return multiple requests for comments from PREMIUM TIMES Friday morning. Yobe police commissioner, Abdulmalik Sunmonu, directed all enquiries relating to the Boko Haram attack to the military.
The insurgents broke into two and headed in two parallel directions after their attacks in Geidam on Thursday morning, with one group heading towards Damasak-Abadam axis in Borno State, while the order moved at a slower pace to hibernate around Bornu Yassu, also in Borno State.
Before ending their attack, however, the insurgents took over Goggo Petroleum, a service station in Geidam, “where they loaded petroleum products to their satisfaction,” military sources said.
The attack took military casualties to 14 within the past week. On January 19, Boko Haram killed six soldiers when they overran Kamuya, a Borno community from where the mother of Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, hailed.
The military said several insurgents were also killed in the attack.
The spectre of Boko Haram insurgency, which has seen over 100,000 killed since 2009, however, still looms over Nigeria’s political leadership, barely days to another round of general elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who is standing for reelection, campaigned in 2015 to drive out the insurgents and bring succour and justice to affected communities.
But little appeared to have changed four years on. Boko Haram attacks are still rife, and they have taken a different dimension since July 2018 when military installations began the prime targets. Hundreds of soldiers have been killed since then, with the dislodging of Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion in November, being, perhaps, the most devastating of all.
Mr Buhari and his senior official and military chiefs have declared since December 2015 that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” after a sustained counter-insurgency that saw Nigeria retake several local government areas seized by the terrorists since declaring a caliphate in 2014.
Yet, on January 9, the president acknowledged setbacks in the counter-insurgency operations, attributing it to “battle fatigue” among soldiers who might not be conversant with the asymmetric nature of the attacks.