Boko Haram seizes more towns in NE Nigeria as 'army flees'

Aderogba Obisesan
A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram shows alleged group members at an undisclosed location (AFP Photo/)

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Boko Haram on Tuesday attempted to blow up a bridge on the Nigerian border with Cameroon after overrunning two towns and sending residents and soldiers fleeing, police and locals said.

A Cameroon police officer stationed in the far northern town of Fotokol told AFP that the militants tried to destroy the bridge, which serves as the border crossing with Gamboru Ngala in Nigeria.

Boko Haram stormed Gamboru Ngala early on Monday and by evening had taken over the police station, a military barracks and vocational training centre, where they had based themselves, locals said.

Three children were reportedly injured by flying shrapnel when explosives were detonated, possibly by firing from the Cameroon side of the border, they added.

Boko Haram had earlier stormed through two other Nigerian cities, cut the throats of three people in front of a church after soldiers deployed there fled for their lives across the border into nearby Cameroon, a police source in that country said Tuesday.

- Throats cut outside church -

"Boko Haram fighters moved into Ashigashyia" overnight Monday, where they slaughtered three people in front of a church, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Almost 500 Nigerian soldiers fled the Nigerian border cities of Ashigashyia and Kerawa over the weekend to take refuge from Boko Haram militants on Cameroonian territory.

Nigeria's military in Abuja on Monday denied reports that the soldiers had fled, claiming that it was a "tactical manoeuvre" as they pursued the militants.

The authorities in Cameroon said the troops fought a rearguard battle in Gamboru Ngala before withdrawing as they were out-numbered. They spent the evening at a Fotokol customs post.

Assessing how much territory the militants actually hold is impossible because of their hit-and-run tactics, but residents have said the Islamists now control at least one town in Yobe state -- Buni Yadi -- as well as Gwoza and Gamboru Ngala in neighbouring Borno.

In Adamawa, which has also been under a state of emergency since May last year, a local government official said scores of gunmen stormed the town of Madagali on Saturday, forcing out soldiers and taking over government buildings.

- Troops chased -

Local government chairman Maina Ularamu said the insurgents advanced from Gwoza, some 23 kilometres (14 miles) away, and took several villages in between.

"Boko Haram are now in control of Madagali and many villages in the area which have been deserted by residents for fear of attack by the insurgents," he added.

Troops were chased out of the town of Gulak, the administrative headquarters for the region, some 20 kilometres from Madagali.

The Islamists arrived from Gwoza via Liman Kara, where they took over a police training college last week, Ularamu said.

"For now they are not killing residents but people are living in fear considering the carnage they carried out in Gwoza, despite giving assurances to residents they were not going to harm them," he said.

On Monday, six people were killed in the village of Kafin Hausa while a church was burned down in Sabon Garin Hyanbula on Sunday.

"People have been sneaking out from Madagali to avoid possible attack by the Boko Haram gunmen," Ularamu said.