Insurgents of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway group from the Boko Haram sect, have reportedly hoisted their flag in two communities in Borno State, New Marte and Kirenowa, the biggest towns in Marte local government area of the state after overrunning troops of the Nigerian Army in a fierce battle on Monday.
It was also gathered that hundreds of people have been trapped in neighbouring towns and villages after the insurgents allegedly dislodged the Nigerian troops from the communities and have begun imposing levies on the residents.
This came a day after the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, issued a 48-hour deadline for the troops of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ to recapture Marte from the terrorists.
During a visit to the troops of the Nigerian Army Super camp 9 in Dikwa, after the terrorists invaded and took over several communities in Marte and Ngala local government areas of the state including Kirenowa, Kirta, Wulgo, Chikingudo communities, Attahiru had said:
“Areas around Marte, Chikingudu, Wulgo, Kirenowa and Kirta must be cleared in the next 48 hours. You should be rest assured of all support you required in this very onerous task.”
However, in defiance of the CoAS’s ultimatum, the ISWAP insurgents are said to have taken possession of the military formation in Marte, including high profile fighting equipment and vehicles.
A resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the terrorists have stationed their fighters in strategic locations while others are serving as police, giving directives to locals who were unable to leave places like Kirenowa and others.
“The terrorists have taken people in the town hostage. They are now in control of Mosques, hospitals and other government buildings.
“They are in absolute control of Marte and environs, giving directives as to when people can go out. It is like what happened years ago when they established their territory in the outskirt of Kirenowa close to Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
“People would have to take permission from them before doing anything. I pray that Nigerian authorities would mobilise and reclaim the town soon.”
Another resident said:
“At least seven Nigerian soldiers attached to the 153 Infantry Battalion in Marte were killed after the terrorists attacked the area.
“There was a serious confrontation between the troops who had to retreat, leaving the terrorists behind in the town.
“Only a truck and two staff cars were salvaged. All other heavy military ranged weapons were destroyed or taken as booty.
“Most of the attacks by the insurgents on the installations were launched from the Monguno road area but during the last assault, the insurgents unexpectedly came from the Dikwa side.
“And before then, they have gained access to the town and mixed with the returnees. There was no way any soldier could counter a shooter’s shot because definitely civilian returnees will be killed.
“Even when air support arrived, the jets could not fire any weapon to counter them. Of course, soldiers had to move to Dikwa town.”
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