Residents of Damasak in the northern part of Borno State have narrated their ordeal in the latest Boko Haram attack on the town that left at least 12 people dead and several injured.
The incident which occurred on Tuesday was the sixth in two weeks in the chain of insurgent attacks on Damasak – the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area of the state.
“What we saw with our eyes on that day … they (the insurgents) came around 4pm until daybreak, and we heard them giving instructions on the houses to be burnt,” one of the survivors Mustapha Maina told Channels Television.
He added, “The gunshots in the town were so much that we did not know where to hide. We buried up to 12 people. There are a lot of our people by the riverbank at the Niger border – it is just a five-minute drive from here.
“They (the insurgents) were speaking Hausa, Shuwa, Kanuri and Fulani languages. They told us not to run, that they won’t touch us. Those who died were killed by stray bullets; they were not direct targets.”
Damasak used to be a producer and exporter of vegetables to target markets within Nigeria and neighbouring countries before Boko Haram took control of it in 2014 as one of their caliphates.
Although it has since been liberated by the military from the hold of the terrorist group, the insurgents appear not to have given up on the town.
A United Nations helicopter was shot in Damasak last year, barely managing to fly to safety.
Recently, the UN humanitarian hub, private residential houses, a police station, the palace of the district head, a primary healthcare centre, and a GSM Village were among properties destroyed when the insurgents invaded the town.
This forced thousands of residents to flee Damasak to seek refuge in border communities in the Niger Republic, although some of them are said to be returning home.
VIDEO: Army Calls Overrun Of Damasak ‘Blatant Misinformation’
Two Days In The Bush
Another survivor, Fatima Ibrahim, told Channels Television that as the insurgents got to the village, they went straight to their targets.
She lamented that the assailants got hold of her son-in-law whom they ordered to take them around, and his whereabouts have been unknown since then.
“My daughter’s husband has been abducted; he is a civilian JTF member. They made him show them some selected houses belonging to their targets which they burnt one by one.
“Then they still took him away and till this day (Friday), we haven’t heard from him,” a tearful Fatima sobbed.
Before the attack, about 200,000 civilians were living in Damasak and half of the figure was reported to have fled to the communities in the Niger Republic for safety.
Hamsa Muhammadu, who was among those who fled their homes, explained that they had to leave because the gunshots became unbearable at some point.
“We spent two days in the bush. We left with our children to Gamari, then to the Niger Republic. Some of us could not find a place to stay, so they are just sitting by the roadside as I speak.”
A Night In Damasak
On Thursday, Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum visited Damasak in company with the lawmaker representing Borno North, Senator Abubakar Kyari, who hails from the town, as well as some government officials.
Governor Zulum who spent the night in the town had interactions with the survivors, as well as soldiers and others security forces involved in the counter-insurgency operations there.
While assessing the level of destruction caused by the insurgents, he sympathised with the residents and assured them of robust measures to avert future insurgent attacks on Damasak.
The governor also held an operational meeting with soldiers and other security forces after which he presented 12 security vehicles, including an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and 11 patrol vehicles.