Some of the Nigerian soldiers that fled to Cameroon following a fierce battle with Boko Haram militants in locations around Borno and Adamawa states have returned as residents of Mubi town in Adamawa State reported seeing tired and tattered-looking soldiers arrive.
The residents said they saw several soldiers, wearing torn uniforms and gloomy faces, returned in the wee hours of Tuesday.
The residents suspect that the returning soldiers were among the 500 soldiers that fled to Cameroon on Monday.
A resident, Joseph Baba, said “we saw some of them purchasing second hand clothes at the Mubi main market”.
‘’Initially, we were afraid. People panicked when we sighted the troops. They arrived in the wee hours and people began to scamper for safety because no one knew their mission. I even thought they were Boko Haram disguised in military uniform as the insurgents usually do,” Mr. Baba said.
Nigerian soldiers on the battle field often complain about being under equipped to face Boko Haram insurgents.
On Monday, the soldiers retreated and sought refuge in Cameroon in what the military authorities later described as tactical manoeuvre.
The spokesperson for the Defence Headquarters, Chris Olukolade, could not be reached Tuesday to confirm the return of the soldiers. He did not answer or return calls.
But Mr. Olukolade had said in a statement Monday that the troops were “on their way back to join their unit in Nigeria”.
However, an hour after this report was published, the Defence Headquarters issued a brief statement confirming the return of the soldiers.
It said the “troops who returned from Cameroon were today addressed by the General Officer Commanding 3 Division, Major General Zaruwa as they embarked on another mission in the Counter Terrorism campaign”.
All the soldiers are in high spirit with all their weapons and equipment intact, the statement added.
In a video released on Sunday, which also showed scenes of Nigerian soldiers running for safety and arms recovered from Nigerian soldiers, Abubakar Shekau, the sect leader congratulated his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month.
Defy curfew, Boko Haram says
Meanwhile, residents of Madagali town in Adamawa State said Boko Haram insurgents told them to defy the 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government.
Acting Governor Umar Fintiri on Sunday announced the curfew after Boko Haram’s fighters invaded the town, which shares a boundary with Borno town- Gwoza, seized by the insurgents.
Residents said the insurgents, who move freely in the town, brandishing their guns, asked them to continue with their normal businesses, without fear of attack.
“They asked us to ignore the 24-hour curfew, promising not to attack us. They (Boko Haram) told us that they are not after us now; rather, they are pursuing troops being deployed,” a resident of the town, who asked not to be named, said.
Refugees in Cameroon
With reports of swelling numbers of displaced persons and insufficient camps, some residents who crossed over to Cameroon have allegedly been arrested by Cameroonian security operatives.
“Many residents are now on the hilltops, while those that were able to cross to Cameroon are reported to have been arrested by Cameroonian security operatives,” a source, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told PREMIUM TIMES.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was updated to reflect the confirmation by the Defence Headquarters that the soldiers had returned.