Mixed reports as Boko Haram claims another town in Borno

NIGERIA-UNREST-ATTACK

Boko Haram Militants led by Abubakar Shekau

A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C), delivering a speech at an undisclosed location.
A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C), delivering a speech at an undisclosed location.

Nigeria’s militant Islamist sect Boko Haram has seized the key northeastern town of Bama after fierce fighting with government forces, says residents who spoke to BBC.

Thousands of civilians have fled the town, along with soldiers, they added.

However, military sources said the army was still in control of Bama, the second biggest town in Borno state.

Last month, Boko Haram said it had established an Islamic state in the towns and villages it controls in north-eastern Nigeria.

If confirmed, the capture of Bama would be an extremely significant development and would raise concerns that Boko Haram’s next target will be Maiduguri, the state capital about 70km (44 miles) away, says BBC Hausa service editor Mansur Liman in Abuja.

Residents told BBC Hausa that Boko Haram captured Bama, which the 2006 census showed had a population of about 270,000, after heavy fighting on Sunday and Monday.

The militants, who travelled in tanks and armoured trucks, first seized the military barracks in the town, they said.

Related News

Soldiers and residents fled on foot, many of them walking all the way to Maiduguri, residents told the BBC.

DHQ spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade
DHQ spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade

Nigerian security sources said the assault had been repelled and about 70 militants had been killed, news agencies report.

The air force was used to “dislodge the swamp of terrorists” from Bama, the military said on its Twitter account.

An overnight curfew has been imposed in Maiduguri to prevent “infiltration” by militants after the “heavy casualties” they suffered, it added.

Defence Headquarters spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade, has however dismissed reports that Boko Haram has taken over Bama. On his wrote on his Twitter account he wrote that an eyewitness stated that Nigerian troops repelled attacks to claim Bama.

“A witness, Mohammed Ahmed told Reuters “There was an attempt by Boko Haram people to enter and capture Bama. But thank God for the efforts of the soldiers stationed near the mobile police unit who were able to repel them.” #Bama

Olukolade then tweeted #Victory.