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Nigeria's Boko Haram Puts Maiduguri Under 'Siege', Has City 'Completely Surrounded'

Nigeria's Boko Haram Puts Maiduguri Under 'Siege', Has City 'Completely Surrounded'

Bama Residents: Militants, Not Nigerian Troops, Hold City

Nigeria's militant Islamists have "completely surrounded" Maiduguri, the main city in north-eastern Borno state, traditional elders have warned. The military needed to "fortify" the city, which had a population of more than two million, to prevent an assault "from all directions", they said.

The Boko Haram militants had "annexed" areas that were about 50km (30 miles) from Maiduguri, they said.

 

And Officials from the Nigerian city of Bama are also refuting government claims that troops have recaptured the municipality from Boko Haram militants.

Muhammed Hussan, head of the Bama Development Association, told reporters on Thursday that Bama remains under Boko Haram control and residents are in dire need of help.

 

“We are calling on state and federal government to expedite action towards reclaiming Bama from the hands of terror," he said. "Those in captivity are under serious trauma, starvation, distress with serious degree of injuries, while on the other hand, those that have lost their lives are yet to be buried.”

 

Boko Haram attacked the flashpoint city in northeast Borno state early on the morning of September 1. The army said it had pushed the militants back, but residents say insurgents ultimately overpowered soldiers and took control of the area.

 

Speaking to reporters in the state capital, Maiduguri, some 70 kilometers northwest of Bama, Hussan said some residents drowned while fleeing across nearby rivers during the battle, while others were shot dead.  The violence has raised concerns that militants could advance on the state capital.

 

Despite reports earlier this week that government airstrikes had driven the militants from Bama, chairman of Borno State Committee on Displaced Persons, Alhaji Jidda Shuwa, said that does not appear to be true.

 

“To the best of my knowledge and from the reports I have received ... Bama appears to be still under the control of the insurgents," he said. "But I have been made to reliably understand [that] the military are pushing ahead to go and capture Bama.”

 

Shuwa said these reports came from 133 Bama residents who arrived Thursday. His organization estimates 7,000 displaced people from Bama have fled to the state capital since it fell, mostly on foot.

 

Boko Haram declared a caliphate in areas it controls last month. The government has not yet commented on the statement issued by the Borno Elders Forum (BEF). Experts from the Nigeria Security Network (NSN) had last week warned that Boko Haram is plotting a major offensive on the city in similar fashion to the Islamic State's capture of Mosul.

 

"Unless swift action is taken, Nigeria could be facing a rapid takeover of a large area of its territory reminiscent of Isis's lightning advances in Iraq," their report, entitled North-East Nigeria On The Brink, claims. "If Maiduguri falls, it will be a symbolic and strategic victory unparalleled so far in the conflict."

 

The group has captured towns and villages around the city such as Damboa, Gwoza and Bama, the latter of which the Nigerian government now claims to have recaptured. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in February next year, has been increasingly criticised for his inaction against the terror group.

 

In April, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok, bringing global attention to the west African nation's fight against terrorism. Three states – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – have been under a state of emergency since May last year.

According to Human Rights Watch, the militants have killed at least 2,053 people since the beginning of 2014.

 

'Annihilation'

The Borno Elders' Forum, BEF, represents influential people in the state, including former government ministers and civil servants. Boko Haram has also captured territory in neighbouring Adamawa state, forcing people to flee into hills, where they are eating leaves, residents told the BBC.

 

"We are convinced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not shown sufficient political will to fight Boko Haram and rescue us from the clutches of the insurgents which may ultimately lead to the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno," BEF said.

"The insurgents... are nursing the ambition of attacking the city in all directions. There is credible local intelligence information to that effect.  The insurgents have rendered impassable almost all the roads leading to Maiduguri," it added.

 

Air strikes

BEF said the military needed to "urgently fortify" the city, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002.

 

"The insurgents have surrounded Maiduguri and are nursing the ambition of attacking the city from all directions," BEF said. 

 

The elders said half of Borno state's 4.1 million population was now living in temporary accommodation in Maiduguri, where Boko Haram began as an anti-corruption movement in 2002.  The United Nations said more than 650,000 people across the north-east had fled their homes, while the United States warned any attack on Maiduguri could further affect civilians.

 

Already, roads and bridges have been destroyed, schools shut and the economy blighted, while Maiduguri has been without mains electricity for the past three months.  The elders warned of "starvation" given that subsistence farmers in the state had not been able to plant crops this year because of the chaos.

 

Security analysts said Nigeria's government was on the brink of losing control of the north-east and Maiduguri would be a major gain in its goal of creating a hardline Islamic state.  The elders said the government needed to act, claiming the militants were in control of areas south and east of the city after taking over swathes of territory elsewhere in Borno.

 

 

The BBC's Bashir Sa'ad Abdullahi in the capital, Abuja, says tens of thousands of people are taking refuge in Maiduguri after fleeing Boko Haram's advance. It is unclear what is happening in territory under their control in Borno, as the mobile telephone network in many places is down, he says.

 

In Adamawa, the military has launched an air and ground assault to recapture the town of Michika, seized by Boko Haram on Sunday. Residents said people in Michika were trapped between the bombs of the Nigerian air force and the militants who shoot anyone that dares move, at times slitting their throats.

 

One woman told the BBC many children were trapped in her house and had no idea where their parents were. A man said seven people had died where he was sheltering and they could not be buried.

Michika has a population of about 700,000, and is the gateway to Adamawa's commercial hub, Mubi.

 

Boko Haram's five-year insurgency is seen as the biggest threat to Nigeria's territorial integrity since the 1967-70 civil war, analysts say. ; The group has changed tactics in recent months, holding on to towns in the north-east, where most people are Muslims, rather than carrying out hit-and-run attacks.

AFP, BBC, International Business Weekly

 

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