The Nigerian troops seem to have abandoned the ceasefire between the Federal Government and Boko Haram as they killed 25 insurgents in Damboa, Borno State on Sunday.
Boko Haram was the first to abandon the ceasefire when it attacked two communities in Borno and Adamawa states.
Damboa was for several days in July under the control of the insurgents who killed some soldiers, including a Lieutenant Colonel. They had also hoisted their flag in the community which is only about 85 kilometres away from Maiduguri.
The military however succeeded in chasing them but on Sunday night, the terrorists staged a comeback but were overpowered by the “military during an exchange of gunfire.”
Boko Haram had on Friday, the day the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal, Alex Badeh, announced the ceasefire, attacked Shafa and Sina in Borno and Adamawa states.
Just as the attacks were viewed as a breach of the ceasefire, the insurgents struck again in Borno State where they captured Abadam village and beheaded six people on the Biu-Garkida Road on Sunday.
A military source was however quick to dismiss the belief that attacks by the insurgents amounted to a collapse of the ceasefire.
He had said, “One cannot say the peace deal has been violated; it is the nature of most terrorist organisations to act that way, and it should be expected because they have several layers of operation.’’
But findings on Sunday by The PUNCH had revealed that the Federal Government might have entered into the deal with a faction of the group interested in ending the insurgency in the North-East.
A Federal Government team is to meet on Tuesday(today) with representatives of the sect in Ndjamena to conclude the talks being brokered by Chadian President Idris Deby.
The military source, who spoke with our correspondent on the Damboa incident, said there was no way the troops on the ground would have watched the militants overrun the community without confronting them.
“Since we just couldn’t watch them overrun the town again, we engaged them in crossfire,’’ he said.
The source, who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak on the development, added, “We were able to effectively repel them. Twenty five of them were killed during the heavy shoot-out. We also recovered several arms and ammunition as well as a Buffalo Armoured Personnel Carrier which they abandoned in the heat of the confrontation that lasted some hours.”
He was however silent on the casualty figure.
In Maiduguri, a vigilante member, Abba Mohammed, told The PUNCH that the insurgents invaded the already deserted Damboa at about 5pm on Sunday.
He said, “Some of our members in Damboa informed us early this (Monday) morning that the attack was repelled and that more than two dozen insurgents were killed.
“We were told that the insurgents came from the direction of Sambisa Forest Reserve and drove in several pickup vans and vehicles that looked like APC.
“They engaged the military in a massive shoot-out for some hours but when about 25 of them were killed, they had to pull back towards the direction they came from.”
Despite this, the Borno State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria on Monday said it welcomed the truce talks between the Federal Government and Boko Haram.
It said in a communiqué issued at the end of its three-day fasting and prayer for Christians that the breach of the ceasefire by the insurgents should not deter the government from following it to a logical conclusion.
The state CAN Chairman, Rev. Titus Pona, who read the statement said since the insurgents had expressed their desire for peace, government must take advantage of it by playing along.
He said, “We the Christian faithful in Borno State commend the Federal Government for agreeing with the Jama’atul Ahalis Sunna Lida’awati popularly called the Boko Haram for a ceasefire.
‘‘We are happy with the ceasefire, although we heard some reports suggesting attacks by some suspected insurgents lately. We believe it is only a faction that is not interested in the peace process.
‘‘We assume that the Chibok girls and other people in their captivity are alive and well.
“We pray that the offer for ceasefire will be stuck to and come to reality in order to have the abducted ones released and for an end to the insurgency ravaging Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and other parts of the country.’’