Soldiers have fought off attempts by Boko Haram fighters to overrun two army bases in northeast Nigeria, security sources told AFP on Friday, December 7, in the latest attacks to hit the region.
Militants attacked a forward operation base in the town of Bama, some 70 km (45 miles) southeast of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, at about 3:45 a.m. (0245 GMT) Friday.
“The terrorists were in many vehicles … and engaged soldiers in a battle which lasted until 7:05 am,” said one military source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The terrorists were repelled and the base was secured. No casualty has so far been recorded.”
A second military source confirmed the account and said reinforcements were sent from a battalion stationed in Bama itself.
The attack came after Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in the town of Rann, in northern Borno near the border with Cameroon, at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.
“The terrorists came in four gun trucks and several motorcycles and attacked the base of 3 Battalion in Rann,” the first source said in an account supported by local civilian militia.
“It was a heavy fight that lasted for an hour before the terrorists were pushed out with aerial support.”
The officer said the Islamist militants set fire to some homes as well as a UNICEF clinic in the town as they withdrew. There were no military casualties, he added.
Bama and Rann have been repeatedly attacked in the nine-year conflict, which has killed more than 27,000 people, left nearly two million people homeless and devastated northeast Nigeria.
On Tuesday, fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram launched an assault on a military base in Gudumbali town in Borno state, sparking a fierce firefight in which two soldiers were injured, a military officer said.
On Monday, ISWAP fighters attacked a military base in Mallam Fatori, a Borno state town near the borders with Niger and Chad.
The Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram has been blamed or claimed responsibility for more than 20 attacks on military bases since mid-July, killing scores of troops.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016 over ideological differences. One is led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, while the other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
ISIS central gave its formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa Province. It has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching a number of major assaults on military targets in Borno and neighbouring Yobe state amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders.
Since July, AFP has reported at least 22 attacks on military bases and positions in Borno and Yobe. ISIS has claimed that ISWAP is responsible for most of them.
The attacks have raised questions over the government’s claim to have virtually defeated Boko Haram and prompted the army to reorganise senior commanders.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence and on Thursday, six Boko Haram gunmen attacked a group of 20 women collecting wood outside the town of Ngala, some 35 km northwest of Rann.
“The only [ethnic] Shuwa [Arab] among the women was shot dead while the remaining 19, who were mostly Kanuri, were flogged by the terrorists,” said militia leader Umar Kachalla in Ngala.
“The terrorists also shaved the heads of the 19 women with knives before letting them go.”
The women were living in a camp for displaced people and left the camp early on Thursday morning without authorization after the surrounding area was deemed to be safe, said Kachalla.
Attacks on Shuwa have increased since the involvement of Chadian troops in the regional counter-insurgency, as the Chadian military has Shuwa troops in its ranks.
Borno and Yobe states, along with nearby Adamawa state, have born the brunt of nine years of jihadist violence that has claimed 27,000 lives and forced 1.8 million people to flee their homes.
The military has even threatened legal action against organizations for publishing unofficial casualty figures.
President Muhammadu Buhari is under pressure to show his administration is winning the fight against Boko Haram ahead of a presidential election in February at which he will seek a second term in office.
With reporting from AFP