1000s flee to Cameroon after Boko Haram attack in Nigeria

Kano - A Boko Haram attack on a border town in northeast Nigeria forced thousands of people to flee on Monday, in a fresh assault indicating the militants' growing ability to strike at will.

The attack on Gamboru Ngala comes after the town was almost entirely destroyed in May in a devastating assault that also left more than 300 people killed and prompted outrage at the lack of military response.

Many local residents sought refuge across the border in the north Cameroon town of Fotokol, where troop reinforcements were being sent, a security service source told AFP.

Boko Haram, which has been blamed for more than 10 000 deaths in a five-year-old uprising, has in recent weeks sought to take over a number of towns in Borno state, shifting from hit-and-run tactics to an apparent holding strategy.

The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared in a video obtained by AFP on Sunday that the town of Gwoza, southwest of Gamboru Ngala, was now under an Islamic caliphate.

Sounds of gunfire

Residents said Monday's attack began at about 05:30, with the extremists launching coordinated strikes on the main police station and a military base known as the Harmony camp.

"The sounds [of gunfire] became more deafening as police and soldiers responded to Boko Haram," said witness Hamisu Lawan. "Most of our people have fled into Cameroon."

Others locked themselves in their homes, voicing fears that the militants would turn their guns on civilians once they had overrun the police station and military camp.

Residents in Fotokol, which is separated from Gamboru Ngala by a river, also reported "intense" fighting throughout the morning.

"[Cameroonian] soldiers are at the bridge," one said.

Cameroon said on August 18 that it had closed its vast border with Nigeria to guard against the spread of Ebola, which has caused five deaths in the country's financial capital, Lagos, in the far southwest.

But few believed that Cameroon had the resources needed to seal all the possible crossing points along the roughly 1 600km frontier.

Territorial ambitions

Local officials and residents in Borno say Boko Haram may be in control of a key road that connects Gamboru Ngala to the state capital Maiduguri.

Establishing which parts of the area have in fact fallen into rebels hands is difficult in the remote region, where travel is dangerous and prolonged fighting has hit mobile phone networks.

In Sunday's video, Shekau did not develop his claims about Gwoza being part of the Islamic caliphate, despite previously voicing his support for the leader of the Islamic State (IS) militants, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed himself the "leader of Muslims everywhere" in June.

Al-Baghdadi's Sunni Muslim fighters have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nigeria's military dismissed Shekau's claim as "empty", maintaining that the country's sovereignty remained intact.

But that assertion is in conflict with multiple reports indicating that Boko Haram controls several towns in Borno and at least one in neighbouring Yobe state.

Counter-insurgency strategy

Analysts believe that Boko Haram will attempt to hold more towns in Borno in the short to mid-term, with Nigeria's military unable or unwilling to tackle them.

Some Nigerian troops stationed in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, have refused to deploy to retake Gwoza because of what they say are sub-standard weapons that leave them at the mercy of the better-equipped rebels.

Defence analysts have also argued that Nigeria needs to improve its counter-insurgency strategy and adapt to guerrilla fighting rather than relying on conventional means.

Others complain of a lack of political will to properly tackle Boko Haram, which wants to establish a hardline Islamic state and whose campaign has targeted schools, churches and government installations.

Kobus Van der Linde 2014/08/25 05:55:33 PM
Islam: The Religion of Peace
Enig Ma 2014/08/25 06:16:28 PM
Why am I not surprised? Islam, stone age mentality. Performing the deeds the quran instructs.
Tshepo Edmunds 2014/08/25 06:22:00 PM
Eish, no one is marching for nigerians. No word from tony, no word from tutu, no word from the anc,and no word from teletubby malema.
Bongani Nsele 2014/08/25 07:17:52 PM
Bnet Jonas 2014/08/25 07:22:21 PM
Pray for our brothers, may their governments find a way to eradicate this warmongering party and let peace come back in. I hope that they are not still receiving donations from the local mosques
Julie Wilde 2014/08/25 09:16:24 PM
How many innocent people have to die before these monsters are stopped? Where is the African Union? Everyone concentrates on Israel, while our African brothers and sisters are being slaughtered right under our noses!
Christa Flanagan 2014/08/26 03:01:24 AM
Who is sponsoring them with their weapons and obviously, their food? So much can be done to save innocent people, but it seems the world just turns their heads and looks another way! What utter nonsense of political crap !
Kirsty Prinsloo 2014/08/26 06:09:36 AM
Pitty this monster and his followers can't get Ebola.
Zeenie Kara 2014/08/27 11:17:09 AM
Boko Haram is not muslim. They do not represent muslims. Islam teaches peace. Boko Haram are terrorists that use Islam for their own purpose. The media keeps using the words 'islamic groups' or 'islamic fundamentalists'. When a non-muslim does a crime the media does not attach their religion to their crime.
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