Nigeria’s military recaptured the northeastern town of Rann yesterday after it was overrun by Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) insurgents a day earlier, weeks ahead of an election in which security has become a key campaign issue.
This is coming as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said Monday evening attack on Rann by Boko Haram caused many to flee the town.
Nigerian government forces and residents fled during the ISWA attack as the militants set buildings ablaze, but troops fought back and regained control of Rann yesterday, agency reports quoted military and police sources as saying.
“Boko Haram invaded Rann at about 4 p.m (on Monday). The battle continued for about three hours. Our troops retreated and later returned to fight back,” said a soldier who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on promises to defeat the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in the northeast.
ISWA, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, has launched a series of attacks in recent weeks, renewing debate about security in the run-up to elections on Feb. 16.
In December, ISWA took the town of Baga – the Nigerian headquarters of a multi-national force formed by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger to fight the extremists – and more than 30,000 people fled.
The military launched a counter-offensive last week and retook the town, saying it had given ISWA a “bloody nose”.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said attack on Rann by Boko Haram caused many to flee the town.
A signed statement by the North East Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Alhaji Saidu Minin said: “An attack in Rann, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) northeast of the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, forced civilians to flee.”
He said Rann was hosting around 35,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), according to the International Organisation for Migration.
He recalled that Rann had been repeatedly hit by insurgents attacks, which exacerbated the already dire humanitarian conditions on the ground. Minin said report revealed that the military base in the town was burnt by the terrorists, with locals and IDPs fleeing as the Islamist militants set fire on camps and shelters.
He said “aid workers in Maiduguri said colleagues in Rann blamed ISWAP for the raid and people fled towards Bulale, on the Cameroon side of the border.
“Four IDPs were allegedly killed. Several shelters were burned. They also looted food supplies in the town. Humanitarian operations in Rann were scaled down in March last year after an attack which killed three aid workers,” Minin said.