By Eric K. Williams
News out of the village of Doron Baga where on Sunday a Boko Haram raid was carried out is slowly emerging with an ever changing, and disturbing picture. SaharaReporters has learned that up to 85 residents of the village who were abducted by the Islamist group sat stranded on an island inside the lake for some days, but that event has now involved Chadian military forces.
A Nigerian military official who spoke with SaharaReporters on the condition of anonymity, said that the 85 have now been moved to Chadian territory for their safety, and that at least six men, with three reportedly dressed as women who accompanied them to the island, have been arrested. The arrested are now all being held by Chadian officials. At press time it is unclear if the six will be turned over to Nigerian military officials.
It is a bizarre twist to the ever-widening story of a Nigerian-based Islamist group’s activities continuing to spill over into neighboring countries. Cameroon was the first, where in recent weeks the wife of a high-ranking government official was kidnapped. Now Boko Haram activities have touched Chad.
The Nigerian military source also detailed just how members of the Boko Haram had moved their captives to the island within days of the Sunday Doron Baga raid. Boko Haram members had reportedly told Chadian officials administering the island, that they were high-ranking Nigerian officials and the transported civilians were under their protection. Some Boko Haram members reportedly left the island by boat shortly thereafter.
Yet, Chadian military and civil personnel on the island became suspicious. They began interviewing the nearly one hundred people who were now temporary residents about where they came from, and why they were there.
One was a woman who spoke up. She is from Doron Baga, and she had told the Chadians a different story of the Sunday attack on her lakeside village, and details about her kidnapping. What she said did not square with what the Nigerians had told them. Her details matched-up with news that slowly emerged of the latest Boko Haram raid. Others soon stepped forward. SaharaReporters has learned that both Nigerian and Chadian military officials are now in direct contact over the mass abductions.
The attack on Doron Baga Sunday was the start of the week for the Islamist group, and they have since stepped up their attacks and kidnappings with astonishing speed and precision. The attacks and kidnappings continue to this day where dozens of young boys, believed to be more than 50, were reportedly kidnapped out of Dikwa town, in central Borno state. It is another remote town where the abduction took place on Friday, located in Nigeria’s Northeastern region. The military did not respond to a request for comment, according to several news sources reporting that story. A security source said they were aware of the Friday incident but were still investigating the details.
Like many of the villages targeted by Boko Haram, Doron Baga is in the remote Lake Chad region where information is slow to emerge. It is also the region where there has been mass destruction to local communication infrastructure, brought on in large part by the Islamist insurgents, thus making immediate access to security and military officials poor.
Several witnesses who fled Sunday’s raid on Doron Baga said the Boko Haram militants had burned down several houses, a market, a school, and that as many as 97 people were unaccounted for. The news coming out of the tiny island on Lake Chad, where Nigerian military officials believe their nationals were stranded, may help to explain the whereabouts of the unaccounted.