UPDATE: Military jets bombard Boko Haram militants in Gombe

UPDATE: Military jets bombard Boko Haram militants in Gombe

The Nigerian military has launched airstrikes on suburbs of Gombe town as soldiers and police battled Boko Haram insurgents who attacked the town early Saturday, residents have said.

Fighting continued Saturday noon as Air Force jets targeted areas raided by the militants outside Gombe city.
The terrorists had attacked Lubo and Dadinkowa villages, some 32km from Gombe town, before heading for capital city.

A resident, Mallam Hassan, told PREMIUM TIMES on phone that “we’ve all rushed back to our homes now. Our town is under attack; we heard that Boko Haram terrorists, in their hundreds, are trying to invade the town”.

“Everywhere is quiet now, but the sounds of shooting and explosion is deafening. We hear the soldiers are battling to stop them”.

Another resident said soldiers and police confronted the sect members in Linji village, on the outskirts of Gombe.
A resident, Ahmed Hamza, told PREMIUM TIMES that some young men from Dadin Kowa town earlier informed him that the sect members ‎were attacking their town.

“We can hear sounds of gunshots from a distance and everybody has gone indoors now,” he said.

Another source who declined to be named for security reasons also said the insurgents headed towards the Army Barracks along Dadin Kowa road when the Nigerian Army troop engaged them while a detachment of mobile police officers provided back up.

The spokesperson of the Police in the state, Fwaje Atajiri, could not be reached for comments at time of this report.

The Boko Haram terrorist group has repeatedly attacked the town bombing bus stations and other locations.
Saturday’s attack is coming less than two weeks after a suicide bomber struck in the city shortly after President Goodluck Jonathan campaigned.

Mr. Jonathan was in Gombe for a rally that February 2, when a female suicide bomber struck shortly after the campaign train departed.

The female suicide bomber and a passer-by died in the attack, while six persons were injured, the police said at the time.

In December, the Nigerian military said it killed 67 of the insurgents, who, in a convoy of over 30 vehicles and motorcycles, were on a mission to capture Ashaka, another Gombe town, the host community of Ashaka Cement Plant.

The defence headquarters, which admitted losing 10 soldiers in the battle, said troops got intelligence report on their mission and laid ambush for them.

Again, Obasanjo seeks dialogue with Boko Haram; says sect has legitimate grievances

Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has again advocated dialogue with the insurgent group, Boko Haram, saying the group has legitimate grievances despite its brutal five-year campaign that has killed more than 15,000 people, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

The former president said Nigeria should not rule out talking to the terrorist group which recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) – but he said that should only happen after a sustained military campaign.

Boko Haram’s run of violence against innocent people in schools, places of worship, markets and homes, only slowed relatively in the last few weeks in the face of increased military onslaught from Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroun.

The military has retaken 15 of 16 major towns seized by the group, the latest being Bama in Borno State, recaptured on Monday.

In response, Boko Haram has launched more suicide bomb attacks killing scores of civilians.

In an interview with the International Business Times in Dubai, Mr. Obasanjo advised that in dealing with the terror organization, the Nigerian government should not rule out dialogue if the group is willing to talk. He said that should happen only after sustained military operations against the militants.

Mr. Obasanjo, who spoke at the side-lines of the Global Education Forum conference, said with only 19 per cent of the population in Boko Haram’s stronghold of North-East Nigeria receiving education, [compared to 79 per cent in the South-West and 77 per cent in the South-East], there was no question that the area should feel marginalised.

“We don’t need anyone to tell us that that is a problem; a problem of disparity, a problem of marginalization, a problem because education is fundamental to your employability and to your living conditions. If you are not educated you are handicapped,” Mr. Obasanjo said.

Mr. Obasanjo again criticised President Goodluck Jonathan’s response to the group, saying the incumbent failed to act quick enough in taking the fight to Boko Haram.

That failure, he said, had given the group “false confidence” to spread to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

“The response of the government initially was definitely not enough. When Boko Haram started showing their fangs about four years ago, the reaction should have been firm and unmistakable. We have lost ground,” he said.

Mr. Obasanjo said as progress is made with the regional response from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Nigerian government should not rule out engaging with the militants.

“If Boko Haram is ready to talk, we should talk. But by the time they are ready to talk they will need to be pounded a little bit militarily: at that stage they will be ready to talk,” Mr. Obasanjo said.

Mr. Obasanjo has made similar calls in the past. In 2011, he made a unilateral attempt to open talks with leaders of the deadly sect.

The effort ended on a bloody note with the murder of Babakura Fugu, the man who received Mr. Obasanjo, and attempted to establish a link between insurgents and the former president.

Mr. Fugu, a brother-in-law of Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram’s founder, was shot to death shortly after Mr. Obasanjo left his home in Maiduguri, the Borno Stat capital, where he had flown to for a meeting.

The effort was not at the instance of the federal government, officials said at the time.