Boko Haram, the Islamist terror sect, yesterday wreaked havoc in the North East part of Nigeria, killing no fewer than 150 people in Kukuwa Tasha, a sleepy village in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State.
The terrorists swooped on Kukuwa Tasha, shooting desperately at the harmless villagers.
Kukuwa Tasha village is about 50 kilometres away from Damaturu, the capital city of Yobe State.
A local source from the village who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the villagers initially attempted to confront the terrorists but were overwhelmed because they came with more sophisticated weapons.
The gunmen arrived on motorcycles and a car and immediately opened fire at the local residents on sight.
The assailants shot several people and as the residents made to escape, they plunged in droves into a river which, according to a resident who was lucky to survive, had overflowed as a result of recent rainfall.
The source who spoke with our correspondent said the death toll was yet to be confirmed but no fewer than 150 might have been drowned in the river as they could not be accounted after the terrorists had fled the village.
When contacted, the spokesperson for Yobe State Police Command, Mr. Toyin Gbadegesin, a deputy superintendent of police, said the command was yet to receive an official report on the attack.
The tragic attack occurred in less than 48 hours after the sudden re-emergence of the sect’s deadly leader, Abubakar Shekau, who had gone missing since his last appearance in video in February.
Shekau had been rumoured to be dead or wounded in the military offensive against the sect but releasing a recorded message two days ago, he mocked those speculating on his death or injury to him, just as he declared that he was the leader of the terror sect linked to the ISIS in West Africa.
Aside from the emergence of Shekau, the attack came on the heels of appointment of a new commandant for “Operation Lafiya Dole”, a military offensive to flush out Boko Haram from the North East. The Nigeria Army appointed the new commandant, Yusha’u Mahmood, a Major General, as part of efforts to meet the timeline set by President Muhammadu Buhari last week that the terror group must be crushed within three months.
It would be recalled that immediately he took over the mantle of leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari, ordered that the military headquarters be relocated to the North East.
Gathering news of the attack was rather slow because the terrorists had destroyed telecom masts around the village, and the nearby communities to Damaturu since the terror campaign on the North East began in 2009.
Shekau had denied he had been killed or ousted as chief of the extremist group in an audio recording released on Sunday attributed to him by security experts.
In the eight-minute Hausa-language message, Abubakar Shekau denied claims by Chadian leader, Idriss Deby, that he had been replaced and calls the president a “hypocrite” and a “tyrant”.
“It is indeed all over the global media of infidels that I am dead or that I am sick and incapacitated and have lost influence in the affairs of religion,” he says in the recording released on social media.
“It should be understood that this is false. This is indeed a lie. If it were true, my voice wouldn’t have been heard, now that I am speaking.”
Mr Deby declared on August 12 that efforts to combat the Boko Haram jihadists had succeeded in “decapitating” the group and would be wrapped up “by the end of the year”.
Mr. Deby told reporters in the capital N’Djamena that Boko Haram was no longer led by the fearsome Shekau and that his successor, whom he named as Mahamat Daoud, was open to talks.
But Shekau debunked Derby’s claim as untrue.
“Gratitude be to Allah and with his help, I have not disappeared. I am still alive and I am not dead. And I will not die until my time appointed by Allah is up,” Shekau says in the message.
The SITE Intelligence Group verified the authenticity of the message, and an AFP correspondent with extensive experience of reporting Boko Haram said it exactly resembled Shekau’s voice in previous recordings.
Shekau also mocked a recent statement by President Buhari that Boko Haram should be eliminated within three months.
The fiery terrorist took over as the group’s leader after its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, died in police custody in July 2009.
Under his leadership, Boko Haram has become more radicalised and has carried out more killings. Unofficial figure of persons killed by the terrorists within the last six years has been put in the neighbourhood of 20,000.
In numerous videos, Shekau had taunted the Nigerian authorities, celebrating the group’s violent acts including the abduction of the more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.
Last month, Buhari said he would be willing to negotiate with the Boko Haram leadership for the release of the Chibok girls – depending on the credibility of those saying they represented the group.
However, previous attempts to negotiate with the Boko Haram had been futile.