Suspected members of the radical Islamic group Boko Haram have taken over Gwoza, a major town in Nigeria’s north-eastern State of Borno on August 5.
Details of the attack are sketchy; several bridges linking the town to Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, and to other neighbouring areas were blown up in previous attacks, and telephones lines have been cut.
Peter Biye, a Member of Parliament representing Damboa, Chibok and Gwoza, told World Watch Monitor that at least 100 people were killed. The attackers, he said, "came in mass’’ dressed in army uniforms and loaded on about 15 vans, motorbikes and other vehicles, around 5 p.m.
‘‘They chased away everybody, firing indiscriminately and killing dozens," Biye said. "Unfortunately, we lost a prominent church leader, Pastor Musa Ayuba, from COCIN Church."
The COCIN, or Church of Christ in Nations headquartered in the nation’s capital city, confirmed Ayuba’s death. He was in charge of a church in Guduf, a small community east of Gwoza Town. He was killed while trying to run away from the assault.
The assailants burned down a yet-uncounted number of churches, shops, houses and government buildings. Hundreds of residents escaped to the surrounding mountains. The whereabouts of the town’s traditional ruler, the newly installed Emir of Gwoza, Mohammed Timta, are still unknown. His father and predecessor, Shehu Mustapha Idris Timta, was killed May 30 by Boko Haram assailants.
Biye said army troops stationed in Gwoza provided little resistance to the militants, who brought sophisticated weapons, including an armoured vehicle.
‘‘The army used to come monthly to their headquarters in Gwoza and go back to Maiduguri," Biye said. "Unfortunately, on Monday they left behind about 150 soldiers there, but those soldiers were outnumbered by the insurgents. The army has to run away because of the sophistication of militants’ weapons.’’
The insurgents have raised their black and white flags over Gwoza’s buildings.
On July 21, Boko Haram overran Damboa, another major town in this densely populated region, killing hundreds and displacing more than 15,000 people, according the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency. The army has since driven Boko Haram out of Damboa.
Fear and uncertainty
Biye said such victories for the Army are the exception.
‘‘Actually, in our region, the army is losing the ground," he said. "Residents are very disappointed and have lost hope. The situation is so bad that is you see them (insurgents) coming, and the army are running, and the villagers are running either. Then who is going to protect us?’’
Boko Haram, based in the north-eastern state of Borno, has intensified its deadly campaign in recent days, targeting several Christian places of worship.