For the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, these are trying times, with tens of its members bowing to the military’s superior firepower for the umpteenth time in recent weeks.
At least 40 suspected members of the outlawed gang were at the weekend reportedly killed by the peacekeeping Joint Task Force (JTF) in different separate shootouts in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, security sources and witnesses said.
The youth vigilante, a.k.a. Civilian JTF, also hit at Boko Haram’s soft underbelly with the dramatic arrest of three of the sect’s members while trying to escape at a motor park in Maiduguri.
Sources at Zabarmari ward, another notorious den of Boko Haram in Jere local government area of the state, confirmed hearing heavy gunshots all through Saturday afternoon.
A security source revealed to journalists in confidence that an initial attack was launched on Friday at a secret hideout where the sect members were regrouping.
A security source said: “When we approached the place right inside Zabarmari, the terrorists spotted us and opened fire; we had to immediately take cover and fired back from vintage position before we were able to gun down ten of them while others fled under our intense superior fire power.
“We decided not to take away any of their corpses; but the following day when we mobilized our men to the area for a routine mop-up, we found out that a large number persons believed to be the terrorists were at one of the graveyards burying their dead one.
“And when they sighted us they started shooting at our troops. We answered back with superiorly, and succeeded in killing over forty of them.”
Blueprint gathered that the JTF operatives are still combing the area for possible arrest of those that fled with bullet injuries during the graveyard shooting.
In a related development, the Civilian JTF hunting for Boko Haram members on Saturday made another dramatic arrest of three Jigawa-bound suspected members of the sect while trying to board a bus at Borno Express park in Maiduguri.
An eyewitness told Blueprint: “The Civilian JTF came here and arrested three men whom they accaused of being Boko Haram; the three of them couldn’t deny the allegation as the young men dragged them out and pounced on them.
“We learnt that they later handed them over to the JTF unit, and one of them died as a result of the ‘treatment’ he received after attempting to escape”.
The same security source revealed that one of the three arrested sect members confessed that his group had exported some deadly explosives into the country recently.
Efforts to get a direct confirmation from the JTF operatives proved abortive due to general communication breakdown.
Meanwhile, the military JTF yesterday assured agitated residents of Borno state not to be worried over the activities of the Civilian JTF, as the young men are working under strict military supervision.
This follows growing concerns that the youth vigilante whose numbers surge every day may either become a nuisance itself if it were hijacked by miscreants or politicians to witch-hunt innocent persons.
Speaking via a press statement, the JTF spokesman, Lt Colonel Sagir Musa, said the Task Force supports and commends the heroic and patriotic efforts of citizens and residents of the state, especially the youths who are daily rising against Boko Haram’s terrorism in the state.
“The JTF has since commenced the process of monitoring, guiding and regulating the activities of the vigilant youths with the view to making them operate within the ambit of the law,” he said.
“This is in order to making them more useful in fighting Boko Haram terrorism in Borno without becoming a nuisance to the society.
“The JTF therefore requested the public to support, cooperate with the youths and report any noticed unwholesome acts of the youths to the security agencies or any JTF location nearest to them”.