A group of soldiers who brought back dead and injured soldiers from the besieged town of Gwoza yesterday fired shots at the main gate at Maimalari Barracks, is home to the 7th Division the Nigerian army. Gwoza, located near the border with Cameroon, fell under the control of Islamist insurgents yesterday, the second major town in Borno State to be captured by Boko Haram after the terrorist group seized Damboa on July 21.
Two sources at the barracks told SaharaReporters that the soldiers were angry about the number of dead soldiers’ bodies that had to be deposited at a military hospital in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. They added that the commanding officer of the Bama military unit that was sacked by Boko Haram militants is also missing.
The military hospital attached to Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri received the remains of dead soldiers as well as those with critical injuries who were brought in overnight from Gwoza, a town overrun and seized by Islamist insurgents in a deadly operation early Wednesday. One source said that seven Hilux pick-up vans arrived at the barracks filled with dead bodies and injured soldiers.
Several sources disclosed that Boko Haram fighters had massacred at least 100 residents of the town and inflicted a high casualty on Nigerian troops before the soldiers abandoned the town to the superior firepower of the surging insurgents. Boko Haram blew up two bridges in Gwoza, forcing hordes of displaced residents to flee into Cameroon in search of refuge. The new Emir of Gwoza, Mohammed Timta, remains missing more than 24 hours after the militants seized his town. Cameroonian authorities reported that Boko Haram also killed 10 people in a Cameroonian village near Gwoza.
The high death toll and injury count among soldiers provoked the gunshots fired by irate soldiers at the main gate of the Maimalari Barracks. “The shooting forced the soldiers on duty at the gate to take cover in order to escape being hit by the bullets,” one of our sources disclosed.
One source said the angry soldiers on arrival also demanded to see their commander ask him why they were issued far less weaponry and manpower compared to that of the Boko Haram militants. One of the angry soldiers told SaharaReporters that most of their mortars were manufactured in the early 1960s, adding that some of them failed to fire. He also stated that their rifles often jammed after firing a few times.
“The commander went into hiding,” said one source. Frustrated by the development, some of the battle-weary soldiers began to shoot again into the air, saying they wanted their colleagues at the barracks to get a little dose of what they suffered in the bush in Gwoza.
One source added that there was great anxiety among families of soldiers involved in the Gwoza battle. “Some of the relatives of the soldiers attempted to check in the hospital to see whether their people were among the dead, but they were not allowed in. The commander gave orders for the gate to be locked,” he said.
Two weeks ago, military authorities started building a fence around the hospital to restrict public view of the facility. One officer said the military was worried that people were able to see into the hospital and expose information that the military considered detrimental to the morale of its troops.
Some soldiers are reportedly critical of the fencing of the hospital when the barracks remain unsecured and vulnerable to attack.
Our sources said there was high tension among soldiers as the commanding officer of the Bama military formation who led a reinforcement of troops to try and repel Boko Haram’s attack is nowhere to found. One military source disclosed that Boko Haram militants had condoned off and laid ambush in all the axes where they suspected that troops would use for reinforcement. “We heard that the Bama formation ran into an ambush and many of the soldiers were killed and some, including the officer, are still missing,” said a military source.