Personnel of the Borno state Rapid Response Squad (RRS) were at their best again on Friday when they effectively stopped an attempt by an organised armed group to abduct travellers along the maiduguri-Damaturu highway, witnesses said.
A gang of gunmen driving in 5 trucks took over the highway at about 4.30pm stopping commuters and forcing many to flee into the nearby bushes.
Sources said the attack happened near Garin Kuturu, a village not far from Auno, 25km away from Maiduguri.
A commercial minibus driver, Ismaila Jajere who had to abandon his vehicle and flee informed The Humanitarian Times that “it was a scary moment for me and my passengers as these guys chased us far into the bushes before returning to the highway.”
Commander of RRS, Abioye Babalola, who is responsible for the security of the highway confirmed the incident to The Humanitarian Times.
He said the attackers had earlier fired a long distance shot that hit the patro van of the police special counter terrorists unit.
Mr Babalola said upon receiving the information about the ongoing attack and abduction of travellers, “we had to quickly move in from our base in Auno.
“We only did what we are mandated to do, which is protecting commuters along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway,” he said.
“It happened at Garin Kuturu, some few kilometers before Auno, and when we responded to the quick intel shared with us by the locals. But before we reached the spot we noticed that they had fired at long and they hit a patrol vehicle of the Counter Terrorist squad. So we moved in and we saw that they were rounding up passengers. We engaged them, while releasing tear-gas that blinded them. They eventually fled and abandoned the passenger, who we assisted to safety. We have also helped a driver rescue his abandoned vehicle, a Sharon mini bus,” he said.
The foiled attack and abduction of travelers is also the first to be carried out since the announced death of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Jamaatul Ahlil Sunna wal Jihad, aka Boko Haram who reportedly committed suicide during an inter-rivalry fight with a splinter group of the armed opposition group known as ISWAP.
Ismaila Jajere, a driver of one of the attacked vehicles also confirmed the incident.
“I was coming in from Damaturu with my Maiduguri-bound passengers when suddenly I saw a military vehicle trailing; as usual, I tried to give them a way to pass. But when they were overtaking me, I noticed that it was not a military truck but Boko Haram’s. I was scared, so I decided to make a u-turn. When they moved ahead and then suddenly turned and started following us, I had to stop the vehicle, and told my passengers that we were under attack by Boko Haram. We ran into the bush, as we noticed three more trucks of Boko Haram coming. It was scary. They did not fire at us, but we had to keep running. We later returned to the highway, and a payloader gave us a lift to Auno where we informed the police RRS who moved in toward their direction.