Villagers living near Sambisa forest in Borno State have reported seeing a large number of Boko Haram militants leaving the wooded redoubt yesterday morning and moving towards southern Borno.
A security source, who spoke to SaharaReporters, confirmed the account of the villagers. He said Nigeria’s intelligence agents were aware that members of the deadly sect, who had been holed up in a thick forest the size of Western Virginia in the United States, seemed to be relocating to the large swath of territory they have captured in recent daring attacks.
The sect members’ movement is most likely motivated by the insurgents’ recent successes in capturing several major towns in northern Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States.
Eyewitnesses in the villages near Sambisa forest told SaharaReporters that the insurgents had been moving their families and possibly many of their abductees to safer grounds in towns captured in recent weeks.
A villager in Kirawa, a town on the Cameroonian side, also said he had seen some suspected Boko Haram militants moving through Cameroonian territory to Nigeria with large amounts of cargo in tightly secured convoys.
The apparent relocation of the insurgents follows an embarrassing incident two days ago when close to 500 Nigerian soldiers fled to neighboring Cameroon in order to escape from a fierce contingent of Boko Haram militants that attacked Gamboru-Ngala, a major town near the border with Cameroon. With no resistance from the army, the militants easily seized the town, and hoisted their flags at a police station and the home of a former governor, Ali Modu Sheriff.
Cameroonian gendarmes took the absconding soldiers into custody and disarmed them. A military source disclosed that the fleeing soldiers, who ran away with civilians, left behind four armored personnel carriers (APCs) and a huge cache of arms that the militants have taken.
The reported large-scale relocation of Boko Haram fighters has implications for the neighboring country of Cameroon. Cameroonian authorities believe that the abducted wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, remains in the custody of Boko Haram inside Sambisa forest. The militants kidnapped Mrs. Ali in late July during the sect’s raid of the town of Kolofata. A Cameroonian security official, who asked not to be identified, disclosed that negotiations were continuing with Boko Haram to secure their release of Mrs. Ali and other Cameroonian abductees.
Meanwhile displaced persons from Gamboru-Ngala are trapped in Fotocol a small town near Ngala unable to find food and shelter three days after Boko Haram militants sacked their hometown and surrounding villages. A heavy downpour yesterday has made it impossible for their relatives and aid agencies in Cameroon to reach them.