Boko Haram escalates terror attacks, kills aid worker, abducts six others

•UN expresses concerns, calls for their release •Army confirms death of colonel, captain, others

SIX people are missing following an attack on an aid convoy in Damasak, Borno State, an international aid organisation said on Friday with sources stating that it was carried out by Boko Haram terrorists, who abducted survivors.

Action Against Hunger, in a statement, said one staff member, two drivers and three other health workers were missing after Thursday’s attack on the convoy, in which one driver was killed. They were going to Damasak, it was learnt.

The case raises concerns about the targeting of humanitarian workers in the region’s decade-long insurgency, triggered by Boko Haram militants.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident as these colleagues are dedicated to providing life-saving assistance to individuals and families,” Action Against Hunger said of the attack.

The lead driver, known simply as Kashim, was said to have tried to escape to safety when the insurgents rained bullets on his vehicle, killing him in the process.

“The insurgents quickly abducted the six other commuters of the remaining two vehicles which were intact abandoning the battered vehicle and the corpse,” said a source.

According to intelligence sources, “a group of insurgents suspected to be Boko Haram members attacked three vehicles belonging to Action Against Hunger on their way from Maiduguri to Damasak town, along Zari village under Mobbar Local Government Area, not more than 20 kilometers distance from Damasak town.

“The driver of one of the vehicles was shot dead at the spot, while two other drivers, two cars and four staff members of Action Against Hunger are missing.

“The abducted are, Grace Taku, staff of Action Against Hunger; Ali Kayiri Ali Mustapha, Ali Gaya all contract staff, Borno State Ministry of Health, Malam Nuhu Driver and Mohammed Abba Gana, driver, Damuli Investment Company hired to go on the trip.”

Reacting to the development, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, said: “I am deeply disturbed by reports of an incident involving aid workers from International NGOs in Borno State. As details are still coming in and information has yet to be confirmed, the humanitarian community in Nigeria is concerned about the safety of our ACF colleague, partners and contractors involved in the attack against an aid convoy reported on 18 July on the Gubio-Damasak Road.

“First and foremost, my thoughts are with them and their families. They devote their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence. I call on all who may have influence to do everything they can to keep them unharmed and work towards their safe return.

“Out of respect and consideration for the families, the humanitarian community in Nigeria is also asking the general public, including the media, to refrain from sharing any unconfirmed information. The spread of misinformation may put the concerned aid workers at risk and jeopardise their way back to safety.

“This attack occurs only a couple weeks before the ongoing crisis affecting the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe enters its tenth year. Today, 7.1 million people still need humanitarian assistance, while violence, insecurity and inaccessibility to remote areas of Borno State continue to hamper the response to urgent needs.

“These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services. All parties should protect and facilitate the delivery of aid. Despite constraints, the humanitarian community remains committed to doing its utmost to provide life-saving assistance and help the people in north-east Nigeria rebuild their lives.”

Reacting, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state, Bishop Mohammed Naga, said he was not happy that the abductions happened amidst claims by the political and military authorities that insurgency is reducing.

Speaking to Saturday Tribune, Bishop Naga said: “We have hundreds of our kids in the hands of Boko Haram till today. For us, we still have 112 Chibok and 87 Gwoza girls still in the hands of Boko Haram. So many of our kids are in captivity and nobody is talking to us about their release.

“Sadly also, there was a market in Gwoza where Boko Haram traded in little kids. They have auctioned several of our kids in this manner and we all look helplessly. It was in a village called Boko in Gwoza. Again, it was in that Boko market that small boys and girls from age seven to 10 were sold between 2014 and 2015, yet they tell us stories about the defeat of Boko Haram.

“Not only that, the same insurgents are perpetrating these crimes, abducting some little kids around Limankara and I tell you, up till today, we have not heard anything from the government on their release.

“All these have happened to us, yet nobody is negotiating on our behalf and ensuring that our kids come home. Many of our people are already wounded in this hopelessness but we are praying for them.

“Just recently, a pastor of Living Faith (Church) was abducted along with one corps member and they are asking for a huge amount of money for their release. We don’t have that kind of money, which is why we are just looking up to God for help.”

The latest attack came nine months after Islamic State’s West Africa branch executed a Red Cross aid worker who was kidnapped from another town in the North East in March 2018.

 

Army confirms death of colonel, captain, others

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has confirmed the killing of a colonel, a captain and three soldiers when the troops of 212 Battalion deployed in Forward Operating Base (FOB) were ambushed by suspected Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists on Wednesday night.

When the news broke on Thursday, the Deputy Director, Information, Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Ado Isa, in some reports, stated that he could not confirm the story.

However, confirming the incident on Friday, Colonel Isa, in a statement, said the terrorists came at about 6.45 p.m. in seven gun trucks and fought fiercely to infiltrate an army camp but the attack was thwarted with heavy fire and bombardment by the gallant and patriotic troops who were vigilant and battle-ready.

The statement reads in part: “Troops of 212 Battalion deployed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Jakana, last Wednesday, dealt with and neutralised scores of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists when they woefully attempted to infiltrate their base in dire need for logistics.

“However, during the encounter, the army lost a colonel, a captain and three soldiers.”

Isa said the terrorists couldn’t bear the firepower any longer after losing a significant number of both equipment and personnel as they withdrew in disarray along the Benisheikh- Damaturu axis, abandoning a damaged utility gun truck, which was earmarked to convey looted items.

“Consequently, troops immediately followed in hot pursuit and the following items were captured: 1 x anti-aircraft gun,  2 x Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) tubes, 2 x AK 47 rifles, 15 x machine gun rounds and  12 x AK 47 NATO rounds,” he stated in the statement.

Isa said that sadly, a colonel and a captain as well as three soldiers in transit from Maiduguri to Damaturu ran into the ambush staged by the routed, fleeing terrorists from the Jakana axis, which led to their death.

He said the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, while commiserating with the families of the fallen heroes, reiterated that “personnel of the Nigerian Army will never be deterred in the ongoing noble and patriotic fight against terrorism and insurgency in the North East.”

He commended the efforts of the entire troops in the theatre and charged them to remain focused, committed and professional in the discharge of their constitutional roles.

According to him, “the sacrifice of the fallen heroes in the ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency is no doubt painful to all, but that will further spur us to do more to ensure that our country remain secured, peaceful and free from terrorist activities in the overall interest of the nation.”

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