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Day Boko Haram Held Emir, Others Inside Mosque
The ghost of Boko Haram resurrected during the week when the group attacked the Bauchi Prison to free its detained members. ISHOLA MICHAEL writes on the latest disturbance and the likely effect of the prison attack. BAYO ALADE provides additional report.
WHEN members of the Boko-Haram religious sect stormed the Bauchi prisons to free some of their people detained since last year crisis, residents of the city, particularly those around Emir Drive, Bakaro, Railway, Ilellah, Shagari and Bayan-Fada had no inkling that such a well-planned assault was about to take place.
For these residents and those of adjoining areas, Tuesday was a black day as they were disturbed around 6.30 p.m. while preparing to break their fast. The people of Bauchi must have thought that the Boko Haram crisis had died permanently; but how wrong they were.
Eyewitnesses described the attack on Bauchi prison as well-planned and co-ordinated which took about one hour to complete during which the prison security personnel were overwhelmed by superior arms brought by the religious sect members.
The Boko Haram members, numbering about 300, simply outnumbered prison security men which made it much easier for them to accomplish their task.
Emir, Others Held Hostage
According to eyewitnesses, the militants entered the Bauchi Central Mosque at about 6.00 p.m. after setting up their armed men round about the entire area, and participated in observing the Magrib prayers, before breaking their fast. Immediately after the prayers, they announced that everybody inside the mosque, including the Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu, should remain where they were, as they were out for an operation at the prisons in order to free their colleagues who had been in detention awaiting trial since last year.
The armed men then opened fire from all directions and headed for the prisons, which is located directly opposite the Central Mosque and close to the emir’s palace using locally-made, but powerful devices which exploded like grenades and bombs. With these explosive devices, they set the prison and other property including vehicles, motorcycles and other valuables ablaze, before gaining entry into the prison yard.
‘Why We Struck’
While inside the prison, they forced all the doors opened and set all the 759 inmates, including their own members free, chanting various Islamic songs just as they left behind pamphlets which explained why they struck. The pamphlets, printed in Hausa translated in English, stated that: “This thing that we have just done was done with abundant grace from Allah under the leadership of courageous men of Allah with the name, ‘Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad.’ We are waging war in this country so that we will go back to the Shari’a era of Allah, as well as get back to glory of Islam from Christians and this corrupt administration. We also want to emphasise that we are not Boko-Haramu.”
A resident, Umaru Musa, who witnessed the crisis told Saturday Tribune about his experience.
“We were all in the mosque when one of the armed men stood up and asked us to remain where we were, as they were going on an operation at the prisons opposite the mosque. All of us, including the emir, were terrified but we kept our calm, only for us to hear sounds of gunshots all over the place and we tried to run for cover, particularly for the safety of the emir. We thank Allah that nothing happened to him.”
Another man, who preferred anonymity said that going by the manner the attack was carried out, the group must have taken some time to plan for it.
According to him: “One of the Boko Haram members used to live close to my house, but since last year when they first struck, he left town only for him to resurface a couple of days ago. Later, my wife told me that she saw him with two other men and on Saturday, their number increased to over 10. All this while, I did not attach any importance to his resurfacing.”
He added: “On the day they operated, my wife told me that she saw about 20 men entering the house in small dresses and when they came out from the house, they were wearing flowing gowns not knowing that underneath them were guns, ammunition and other weapons used in the operation.”
At the end of the attack, four people, including a soldier, a policeman and two civilians, were confirmed dead while six others are presently receiving treatment at the ATBUTH following gunshots from stray bullets.
Governor, Others Promise Better Security
While confirming the attack to newsmen in his office, Bauchi State Commissioner of Police, Danlami Yar’Adua, said: “As I am talking to you, the attackers killed one soldier, one policeman and two civilians who were hit by stray bullets, two prison warders, two civilians and four others are presently receiving treatments following the attack.”
Governor Isa Yuguda, who was the first caller at the prison, lamented the incidence, saying, “all of us were caught unawares by the attackers because they came at the time nobody was expecting, considering that we are in the holy month of Ramadan when all true Muslims are expected to be fasting and not engage in anything that will lead to the shedding of blood.” He also described the incident as “most unfortunate, regrettable and a security surprise.”
The governor further said that henceforth, adequate security measures would be put in place across the state in order to ensure safety of life and property saying, “government will prioritise the issue of security in the state to ensure that innocent lives are not lost again as well as to check the activities of all criminals in the state.”
Yuguda lamented that the attackers orchestrated their operation in a commando-like manner, beating every security arrangement put in place at the prisons and assured that anybody found to be involved in the attacks in whichever manner, no matter his or her status, either in government or in the society, will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.”
The CP Yar’Adua, however, said that from records available, 759 inmates at the prisons were released, among them 123 Boko Haramu sect members awaiting trial following their arrest last year, after the sect attacked police formations in Bauchi. He also added that as of the time of the briefing, 10 of them had returned to the prisons on their own volition as well as other prisoners who had escaped on Tuesday night.
Yar’adua then said that investigations by his command had commenced, while quite a number of those who had hands in the attack had already been arrested, adding: “searches are on to get others, but we will not disclose what we are doing now. At the appropriate time, we will brief you on the latest development, but for now, the situation is under firm control.”
Prisons CG speaks
While assessing the extent of the damage done to the prison facilities, the Controller General of Prisons, Olushola Adigun Ogundipe, described the attack as most unfortunate, saying that it was a surprise package by the attackers, who he said overpowered the few armed squad of the prison service around and gained entry into the main prison yard forcefully after breaking the doors.
Ogundipe, who visited Bauchi after the incident, lamented that the Bauchi prisons had capacity for 500 inmates, but as of the time it was broken into, a total of 759 inmates were set free, among them all the 123 Boko-Haramu awaiting trials. He, however, pointed out that as of the time he visited, 50 of the inmates including 10 Boko-Haramu members had returned. He assured that more security measures would be taken around all the prisons in the country to forestall future occurrence.
The prisons boss also said that “there are a few vulnerable prisons in the country including Maiduguri, Gombe and Azare. We have increased the presence of armed security operatives there in order to ensure that there is no repeat of what happened here at these places. We are working in conjunction with other security operatives who are really complementing our security efforts.”
The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3rd Amoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, Major General Saleh Maina, also visited the prison in order to have a first hand information of the attack. After going round to see things for himself, he condemned the attack, assuring that adequate security measures would be taken to ensure that all the attackers were fished out from their hideouts anywhere in the country and adequately punished according to the laws of the land.
Emir Says It Won’t Happen Again
The Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu, who also reacted to the attack, described it as an unfortunate happening at a period when Muslim faithful were observing the compulsory fasting in the holy month of Ramadan and barely hours to the celebration of the successful ending of the fasting period. He called on the people of Bauchi to regard the incident as an act of Allah.
“By the grace of Allah, this is the last we will see of the Boko-Haram sect, we will work with the government as well as other security agencies to ensure that this did not happen again,” he said. He also urged the people to get the attack behind them and celebrate the Eid-el Fitri Sallah in a joyful mood.`
The emir, who look worried during the crisis having just become the emir a few weeks ago, linked the attack to “a few disgruntled elements who are bent on destroying the peaceful and serenity of Bauchi.”
Arising from the new wave of attack by the Boko haram sect raises new questions. One, how sure is the emir that the incident would not repeat itself since such assurance was made by stakeholders last year when the sect caused several crises across the northern part of the country?
Secondly, the Controller-General confessed that the prison was overcrowded just as he also disclosed that security was inadequate at Bauchi prison like a few others.
Also, why is the Boko Haram sect which professes anti-social and anti-establishment view still allowed to exist within the society and also to stockpile arms to the extent of having enough to overpower security agents?
Consequently, with such groups having so much ammunition in their possession, how ready are the security personnel in responding to security breach and attacks from such groups, especially as the 2011 election gets closer by the day?
Finally, with so many Boko Haram members having escaped from prison, there is a high possibilty of them regrouping and causing more mayhem.
Already, clues are begining to appear as to how the Boko Haram members get some of their ammunition. Reports emerged during the week in Maiduguri that some policemen had been killed at different points in the city with their rifles taken away. Fingers point in the direction of the religious sect though the police authorities have not been able to confirm this.
Reports from Maiduguri say the Boko Haram sect have not been as visible as they were before the crisis last year, but they still exist in spite of the fact that their leader was killed last year.
A security source told Saturday Tribune in confidence that it is practically impossible to recapture the militants or to totally recover all the arms in their possession.
“Look, the Boko Haram people are not easy to deal with because they are a religious sect and you know that religion is a very sensitive issue in this country. You would discover that some influential people are sympathetic to their cause.
“Again, they can only go underground, but they can never be totally wiped out. They would also continue to have access to arms one way or the other, but security forces would also continue to try their best to cut off their arms supplies, if they can.
“What the security agencies can do is to continuously be on the alert and respond adequately, that is all; otherwise we would always have this kind of religious public disturbance,”he said.Share