An army base in northeastern Nigeria was seized by Boko Haram militants while eviscerating troops according to security sources. The army base, Baga, located on the shores of Lake Chad, is reportedly the headquarters for a multinational coalition including troops from Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger. Currently, only Nigerian soldiers are stationed at the base. Baga initially came to the international limelight when scores of people were killed in vicious fighting with Boko Haram back in 2013. Dozens were burned in their thatched homes, alive. Baga is located 275 kilometers north of the state capital Maiduguri.
Soldiers fled the base during the course of the attack by Boko Haram using army vehicles according to sources. On Friday, members of the militant group overran Malari, a village in northeast Nigeria, kidnapping an estimated 40 young men and boys. The rebel group entered the village summoning the residents under the guise of attending a sermon Bulama Malam, a farmer, related to reporters Saturday.
Malam said that when villagers came out to the square, the militants began selecting young men between the ages of 12 and 25. Malam escaped on foot to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, where he gave his interview. The battle, lasting 16 hours, dislodged MNJTF soldiers taking control of the base. The group hoisted their flag at the MNTJF headquarters and looted the neighboring communities according to reporters. The coalition was established to stem the rebel group’s attack.
According to another resident, the rebels invaded Baga around 05:00 [04:00 GMT]. They attacked from the southeastern entrance to the town, the west, and the north. Boko Haram rebels were heavily armed and the soldiers were soon overpowered seizing the Nigerian army base. The Borno North senator, Maiina Maaji Lawan, told BBC World Service that many of the residents escaped in the forest and the desert. Some residents fled to the Chad Republic and to other parts of the Borno state. Insurgents destroyed public buildings, homes, farm produce, vehicles and shops reports said.
Soldiers engaged the rebel group for hours but eventually had to succumb to the group’s onslaught when the group’s numbers grew every hour. Some of the soldiers ran out of ammunition and stripped out of uniform and escaped into the general population. Communication to Baga was disrupted and exact numbers had yet to be confirmed.
10,000 people have died in Boko Haram’s longstanding conflict with Nigeria reported the Council on Foreign Relations back in November. Boko Haram is considered to be the gravest threat to the African country and a thorn for President Goodluck Johnathan ahead of elections on Feb. 14. He is currently running against Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who is viewed by many to be tough on security.
Hundreds of young people have been kidnapped by the Boko Haram militant group in the past year. In their fight to create an Islamic State beginning in Maiduguri, Boko Haram’s savagery has poured out into the outlying border areas endangering neighboring countries lining the Lake Chad Basin.
On Saturday officials said that the same Boko Haram rebels that seized the Nigerian army base attacked a bus killing 15 people in northern Cameroon. The country’s soldiers are currently locked in a battle to remove the rebels from the Far North region with the assistance of air strikes. 200 hundred schoolgirls still remain in captivity after being kidnapped by the group back in April. The parents of the schoolgirls are requesting assistance from the United Nations after being left helpless by the Nigerian government.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Michael Fleshman – Flickr License