Suspected Boko Haram jihadists raid military base, town in Nigeria

Assailants, arriving on nine armoured trucks, stormed into the military base outside the town of Gajiram.
A Nigerian army vehicle patrols in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria on April 26, 2017. – Banki has been totally destroyed during battles between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram insurgents. Over 32,000 people live in the town but free movement is limited. (Photo by FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR / AFP)

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists have overrun a military base and looted a nearby town in Borno, Nigeria, security sources and residents said Tuesday. The raids came a day after 30 people were killed on Sunday in a triple suicide bombing in the region that also bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram’s decade-long campaign of violence has killed 27,000 people and displaced about two million in Nigeria. Late on Monday assailants, arriving on nine armoured trucks, stormed into the military base outside the town of Gajiram, 80 kilometres, north of the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

They were suspected to be from IS-affiliated Boko Haram faction known as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). “They dislodged troops from the base after a fight,” a security source said.

“We don’t know the extent of damage and looting in the base. An assessment is being carried out”. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties. Residents said the Islamists drove into the town after sacking the base and looted shops, shooting into the air.

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Residents flee as Boko Haram raids town

Their presence forced residents to flee into the bush while others shut themselves in their homes. “The gunmen drove into the town around 6pm local time after overpowering soldiers in the base,” Gajiram resident Mele Butari said.

“They stayed for almost five hours. They broke into the shops and looted food supplies and provisions,” he said. “They didn’t hurt anyone and they made no attempt to attack people who fled into the bush and hid indoors”.

Soldiers were seen returning to the town from the bush Tuesday morning. Traffic on the main road through Gajiram was suspended as soldiers assessed the damage in the base, said residents who returned to the town.

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Gajiram lies on the highway linking Maiduguri and the garrison town of Monguno, 55 kilometres away. Gajiram and the nearby base have been repeatedly attacked by the insurgents. In June last year, ISWAP raided the same base, killing nine soldiers.

ISWAP has targeted dozens of military bases since last year, killing scores of soldiers. Last week, several troops were killed in an ISWAP attack on a remote base in Kareto village, near the border with Niger, according to military sources.

Sunday’s suicide bombings occurred in the town of Konduga, 38 kilometres from Maiduguri. The attacks appeared to be the work of a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.

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Boko Haram violence has spilled over into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting formation of a regional military coalition to defeat the jihadist group.

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