Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Boko Haram has again hit what military authorities described as a soft target, killing no fewer than 30 people.
The attack took place on Sunday night as the insurgents attacked at least 100 vehicles parked along the road in Auno, a small town on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway.
Apart from the mass killing, the terrorists torched over a dozen vehicles, including trucks conveying foodstuff and cement.
Confirming the attack, a Twitter user @DanBorno tweeted: “My heart is broken this morning. #BokoHaram came 2 #Auno (less than 5km to the international Airport and @NigAirForce Base) and did this to travellers who were locked out 5 minutes to 5pm from conveying their goods into Maiduguri. More than 30 people were killed and many abducted.”
Hwever, the military said only 10 people were killed.
Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, briefing journalists, said the insurgents came on motorcycles, set fire on vehicles parked in the town and went back to hibernate in the same town from where they allegedly came out to attack troops.
“I express my profound sadness over the incident. It is wicked, sad. The report of 30 people killed in yesterday’s (Sunday) attack was untrue and misleading. We recovered three corpses yesterday and seven this morning (Monday),” Adeniyi said.
He expressed concerns about commuters and travellers trapped along the road.
“Why should people who know the military closes the road by 4pm start a journey to or from Maiduguri?” he asked.
He said over 200 vehicles were parked at Auno, Jakana and Kukareta in the night in an area battling with Boko Haram violence. He urged people to comply with security measures put in place by the military for safety of life and property. He also advised travellers to start their journey in good time so as not to be trapped on the road.
Borno Governor, Babagana Zulum, during a visit to the scene, expressed shock at the incident. He said residents of Auno told him over 30 people were killed in the attack. He added that he had discussed with the military on the need to establish a unit in the town.
“We’ve made several efforts to establish a military unit at Auno. Now see what has happened as over 30 lives were lost. This is what the community told me,” Zulum said.
Meanwhile the military has handed over three teenagers, two girls and a boy, allegedly rescued along Maiduguri-Gubio road.
The military said troops of Operation Lafiya Dole “skillfully engaged Boko Haram” and then release the teenagers who were on their way from Gubio to Maiduguri to resume school on Sunday.
Adeniyi identified the rescued students as Wommi Laja, Ammo Laja and Kingi Laja, adding that they were rescued from the insurgents’ den after a gun duel between the insurgents and Lt. Col. Idris Yusuf, commander of the 158 Battalion, Gubio.
He said the soldier pursued the insurgents and rescued the students unhurt.
“On February 9, Boko Haram insurgents came with 15 gun trucks between Magumeri and Gubio. They did a snap operation in less than two minutes and kidnapped three students.
“The students were wearing school uniforms, which made it easy for them to be identified. The insurgents are against western education and they abducted them. The commanding officer mobilised the troops and went in hot pursuit of the insurgents’ with the help of the locals who provided intelligence. We are happy the students are here with us safe and sound,” he said.