Suspected Boko Haram terrorists have killed at least 20 soldiers and rendered nearly 1000 people homeless in an attack on Monguno, Borno State. Two residents and a military source who spoke to Reuters confirmed the development.
The terrorists entered Monguno in Borno state posing as a convoy of soldiers on Tuesday evening, the sources disclosed. Thereafter, they attacked troops already inside the town, destroying at least 750 homes in the process.
A resident, Gumati Sadu, noted that people fled into the bush for safety during the fighting. Further, he disclosed that three civilians were killed by stray bullets.
The attack occurred during fighting with the terrorists in Monguno. AFP reported that suspected Boko Harm fighters aboard several trucks fitted with machine guns attacked the town.
Furthermore, residents in Monguno said a rocket-propelled grenade struck a refugee camp housing thousands of people; causing a fire that gutted hundreds of tents. Residents disclosed that the refugee camp also housed the offices of aid agencies working in the region. The suspected terrorists reportedly launched grenades into the offices, which had been evacuated before the attack.
Soldiers quelled the attacks and put the town on lockdown on Wednesday, with troops stepping up patrols, residents said. Many of the insurgents were killed by soldiers, witnesses said.
In a statement released later on Wednesday; Islamic State said fighters from its West Africa Province affiliate carried out the attack. It claimed that a car bomb was detonated inside a Nigerian Army base in Monguno; leading to clashes that “killed eight elements and wounded others, and damaged three armored vehicles.”
Split in Boko Haram adds new twist to decade-long insurgency
It said a four-wheel drive vehicle, weapons and ammunition were captured.
Monguno is in the Lake Chad area, around 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri. It has been repeatedly attacked by insurgents who have made several failed attempts to overrun the large military Super Camp; located just outside the town.
Meanwhile, Chad had recently completed the withdrawal of 1,200 troops from the region – including hundreds from Monguno; after completing a nine-month mission fighting insurgents in the Lake Chad area. Equally important, the area straddles the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The pull-out from the largest base in the region sparked widespread fears of increased insurgent attacks.
Boko Haram has been involved in over a decade-long insurgency against the Nigerian government. It began its bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria in 2009; but it has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response.
Additionally, Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One of the factions, which is also known as JAS, is headed by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau. It is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in March 2015. However, ISIS central only gives formal backing to the other faction, which it calls Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)
ISWAP largely focuses on attacking military and government targets. Its main area of operations is the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, Chad and Niger; and to a lesser extent Cameroon. Nevertheless, the group has intensified attacks on military locations in west of Maiduguri in recent months.