Thousands flee as Boko Haram seizes military base on Nigeria border

From The Guardian.

Thousands of people from remote towns in north-eastern Nigeria have begun streaming into the capital of Borno state to seek refuge after Boko Haram seized an army camp in the border village of Baga, the second time the militants have overrun a military base in a week.

Fleeing residents said the village on the shores of Lake Chad – where a previous massacre left up to 185 dead – was a smouldering wreck after several hours of fierce fighting was feared to have resulted in many fatalities.

News of the attack on Saturday only began to trickle out after survivors reached the state’s capital, Maiduguri, as well as neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

“They came, many hundreds of them, with guns, trucks and grenades,” said a Baga resident who gave only his first name, Amosun. “They burned all the houses they could reach and set the military base on fire.”

Baga is notionally the headquarters of a multinational task force comprising troops from Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon, although only Nigerian troops are based there.

“You can see the Boko Haram moving around all the town in their motorcycles and trucks. They are openly moving around in large numbers,” said Yusufu Dama, who said he walked for two days to safety from Marte, a town near Baga. “Even the army are packing their families away, because they can be attacked at any time.”

An official in Maiduguri said the city was braced to receive hundreds of refugees over the next few days, many of whom would need medical treatment. “Even pregnant women and small children have trekked to us, but we’re still trying to ascertain what’s happening in those areas,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Up to 185 people were killed in Baga last year, making the village an early portent of Boko Haram’s new tactics of striking remote settlements before melting into the vast semi-desert surroundings. Since being squeezed out of their urban strongholds by a renewed military push, the militants’ attacks have also spilled over into neighbouring Cameroon’s far north.

More than 10,000 people were killed last year as a result of Boko Haram’s quest to carve out an Islamic caliphate in religiously-mixed Nigeria

 

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