Abuja. Residents of a northeastern Nigerian town fled after terrorist group Boko Haram captured a military base on its outskirts on Sunday.
Hundreds of people fled to neighboring Chad when Boko Haram captured a base of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) near Baga on Lake Chad. The radical Islamist group battled troops of the force before gaining control over the compound and Baga itself. Speaking to foreign correspondents, local residents said that fighting began early on Saturday when the militants attacked from all sides. Locals ran away in panic when they witnessed government troops fleeing.
Civilians are reported to have been killed by the attackers. Communications have been cut off, parts of the town were been set ablaze and hundreds of homes and businesses have been looted by the militants, according to witnesses. A local resident speaking to AFP said that the multi-national force was “overwhelmed” and had to flee; Boko Haram reportedly employed hundreds of fighters in the attack.
The MNJTF is a multi-national force established in 1998 by troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad. It was initially tasked with combating cross-border criminal activities but its mission has been expanded and it now fights Boko Haram militants. Baga was the last government-controlled settlement in North Borno district and its loss represents yet another setback in the government’s campaign to crack down on the Islamists. The town suffered extreme violence in April 2013, when 200 people were killed and 2,000 homes destroyed in what was suspected to have been a massacre carried out by government troops.
The militants launched an insurgency in 2009 which aims to create an Islamic state, and have kidnapped or killed thousands of people in northeastern Nigeria since then. The country’s poorly equipped military has largely failed to stop the group’s advance.