- Survivor recounts ordeal
From Timothy Olanrewaju,
Survivors of last Tuesday’s Boko Haram deadly attack on a detachment of mobile policemen on special duty and a police funeral train have been recounting how the insurgents ambushed the convoy of vehicles and held the travelers hostage for over an hour on the volatile Maiduguri-Damboa highway.
A convoy of about 200 vehicles, which included a lorry conveying 63 mobile policemen on special deployment, an ambulance carrying the corpse of a deceased policewoman, late Sergeant Rahila Antikiriya with the relations and some police personnel, a truck belonging to Borno State government loaded with relief materials for IDPs, commercial and other vehicles ran into a Boko Haram ambush at Abari/Dalwa village about 30 kilometres to Maiduguri along Maiduguri-Damboa highway on Tuesday morning.
Musa Saleh, a retiree and survivor told Sunday Sun the insurgents took position near the road and suddenly started shooting at the moving vehicles, shooting sporadically for almost an hour.
“They were near the road in two Toyota Hilux vehicles waiting for us to pass and as soon as some vehicles passed, they started firing through the big guns mounted on the Hilux. Everybody was confused, bullets were flying in different directions, sometimes hitting vehicles and people shouting, groaning and crying. Sometimes the bullets hit the middle of the road raising a huge dust with the pebbles and broken bitumen on the bad road,” Saleh said.
Like a thriller, he recounted how drivers who had initially maneuvered along the bumpy road at the commencement of the journey from Maiduguri, 30 kilometres away at 8.30am last Tuesday, ran for their lives on rough edges of the road, stone and even bushy areas for survival not minding the damage that could be done to their vehicles. He described his experience as agonizing and attributed his survival to “divine intervention and strong will to live.”
He said three people, including the district head of Chibok, who was in same vehicle with some other community leaders in Chibok were hit by bullets from the insurgents. “Bullets chopped off two fingers of somebody, another was hit on the thigh and the third person in same vehicle was hit on the arm. Bullets hit the engine of our car and it started leaking oil,” he said.
Another survivor, a policeman, who would not want his name mentioned in the report said the insurgents were firing anti-aircraft guns mounted on the two Hilux vehicles. “It appeared they capitalized on the security lapses on the road to strike,” he said.
He wondered why only two military escort vehicles were piloting and following a convoy of 200 vehicles on a road known for such surprise attacks by Boko Haram.
He said the insurgents who were firing from different directions, broke the convoy. “Only few vehicles with the military escort in the front escaped. The rest were caught in the ambush,” he disclosed.
He also said six women travelling to Chibok in a minibus were among those caught in the middle of the attack. “The insurgents fired at the driver and hijacked the vehicles. The six women are still missing. They are not in Chibok as speculated. We just spoke with their families and relations,” he stated.
He said the insurgents might also have abducted nearly a dozen men in the convoy.
Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, Damian Chukwu, said 57 of the 63 mobile policemen on the convoy have safely returned to Maiduguri. “63 mobile policemen were deployed from Police Mobile Force (PMF),51 PMF Delta on special duty to Askira Uba (Southern Borno). Six of them were injured,” he told Sunday Sun.
He said five of the six injured policemen have been discharged from the hospital, leaving one still recuperating. However, he said some of the women on the funeral train of the late policewomen “may have been missing,” adding that the police was yet to receive any report on their whereabouts.
He said a sergeant, Bala Tiishe of the State Intelligence Bureau, who was driving the ambulance conveying the deceased policewoman to Lassa, Askira Uba, was shot dead and his service riflfe carted away. Likewise, a driver in the transport department of Borno State government, who drove the lorry conveying relief materials for IDPs, Mustapha Modu was also killed in the attack.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, reopened the volatile 87-kilometre Maiduguri-Damboa road almost three years after incessant Boko Haram attacks shut it down. The road which thrusts into the Sambisa fringes, a one time Boko Haram stronghold also borders another Boko Haram acclaimed spiritual haven called Alagarno, once raided by the military. It is a major road that links Maiduguri with the southern part of the state and neighbouring Gombe and Adamawa states.
Boko Haram appeared to have stepped up attacks in recent times, organizing ambushs and attacking communities including the June 7 attack on Maiduguri, which left 13 people dead.