AN unspecified number of residents of Rann in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State were feared killed when insurgents suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists attacked the small town on Thursday night.
It was gathered that the insurgents, some of whom carried anti-aircraft missiles, drove into the town, about 170 kilometres to Maiduguri, in many attack vehicles shooting indiscriminately and destroying property.
Reliable military sources said the residents had been thrown into confusion with many dislodged from their homes before the military intervened and pushed back the attackers amid heavy gunfire.
“They stormed Kala Balge shooting randomly and engaging our men in a fierce battle. Although they successfully invaded some parts of the town and opened fire on many people, our men were on top of the situation.
“Our people should be able to tell us how many on both sides were taken out by Friday. I cannot tell you the exact figure now,” a source said.
It was learnt that the insurgents opened fire from different locations in the town, causing people to run for dear lives but get caught in the line of fire.
Army spokesman, Brigadier-General Sani Usman, confirmed the attack to Saturday Tribune on telephone but said the army formation in Rann successfully forced back the assault.
Many of the residents who fled into nearby bushes to escape the attack were helped out by a military helicopter early Friday.
Since insurgents attacked Rann early this year and the Nigerian Air Force, in an attempted counter-attack, mistakenly bombed the Internally Displaced People (IDP) there, very little assistance has come to the town.
Rann, like some other Lake Chad capitals, is seen as a most vulnerable council area in the ongoing insurgency as it remains surrounded by insurgents.
Meanwhile, soldiers have fought off attempts by Boko Haram fighters to overrun two army bases in the North East, security sources told AFP on Friday, in the latest attacks to hit the region.
The terrorists attacked a forward operation base in the town of Bama, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) south-east of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, at about 3.45 a.m. on Friday.
“The terrorists were in many vehicles and engaged soldiers in a battle which lasted until 7.05 a.m. The terrorists were repelled and the base was secured. No casualty has so far been recorded,” said one military source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second military source confirmed the account and said reinforcements were sent from a battalion stationed in Bama itself.
The attack came after Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in the town of Rann, near the border with Cameroon, at about 9.30 p.m. on Thursday.
“The terrorists came in four gun trucks and several motorcycles and attacked the base of 3 Battalion in Rann.
“It was a heavy fight that lasted for an hour before the terrorists were pushed out with aerial support,” the first source said in an account supported by local civilian militia.
The officer said the militants set fire to some homes as well as a UNICEF clinic in the town as they withdrew. There were no military casualties, he added.
Bama and Rann have been repeatedly attacked in the nine-year conflict, which has killed more than 27,000 people, left nearly two million people homeless and devastated the North East.
The Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram has been blamed or claimed responsibility for more than 20 attacks on military bases since mid-July, killing scores of troops.
The attacks have raised questions over the government’s claim to have virtually defeated Boko Haram and prompted the army to reorganise senior commanders.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence and on Thursday, six Boko Haram gunmen attacked a group of 20 women collecting wood outside the town of Ngala, some 35 kilometres north-west of Rann.
“The only (ethnic) Shuwa (Arab) among the women was shot dead while the remaining 19, who were mostly Kanuri, were flogged by the terrorists,” said militia leader Umar Kachalla in Ngala.
“The terrorists also shaved the heads of the 19 women with knives before letting them go.”
The women were living in a camp for displaced people and left the camp early on Thursday morning without authorisation after the surrounding area was deemed to be safe, said Kachalla.
Attacks on Shuwa have increased since the involvement of Chadian troops in the regional counter-insurgency, as the Chadian military has Shuwa troops in its ranks.