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JTF Cordons Off Baga As Search For Missing Residents, Fleeing Suspects Continues

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 23, (THEWILL) – The search for missing residents of Baga town in Borno State began on Tuesday following the killing of about 200 residents in a bloody confrontation between men of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and suspected members of Boko Haram.

This came as house to house search for fleeing Boko Haram members continued as JTF disclosed that many of the insurgents who attacked the soldiers during the deadly clash had been arrested and were being kept in custody.

Most part of the Nigerian border town with Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has also been cordoned off by JTF thus restricting movement in and out of the town.

JTF Commander in charge of the operations, Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye, said his men had arrested a substantial number suspects who led the attack on the soldiers.

Maintaining that the soldiers had exercised some restraints for so long under intense provocation from the insurgents, he said the bloody clash with huge fatality was highly provoked.

While recalling how a soldier was beheaded in the town by the terrorists who took cover in the community after the dastardly act, the Commander said at another time, soldiers were ambushed by the insurgents during which a soldier was killed with the terrorists shielded by the members of the community.

Edokpaye said though the terrorists had always come to Baga to tax the people of the town, no formal complaint was ever brought to his men.

"The terrorists have been taxing the people for so long and we have had information that they were prepared to attack us which we confronted the people with but they denied," he said.

Edokpaye blamed the large number of casualties and destruction on the weapon deployed by the insurgents, saying the military was at no time unprofessional in its task in the area.

Edokpaye, in a statement, claimed that 37 persons, including a soldier were killed in the clash, stressing that among the civilians killed, 30 were insurgents while the other six civilians were caught in the crossfire.

He listed recovered arms and ammunitions to include three rocket propelled grenade launchers, two rocket propelled grenade bombs, four AK 47 rifles, 435 ammunitions, several quantities of improvised explosive devices , three damaged Land Cruiser vehicles belonging to the terrorists.

Residents of Baga who were lucky to have escaped into Maiduguri however told journalists that they found it difficult to locate their family members and relations in the troubled town as they had to run for their lives.

A resident, who simply identify himself as Modu, said all attempts to get to the people back home has proved abortive as the telephone network there were down. He said the last he heard from them was that many people are still missing and that there is house to house search for sect members.

Meanwhile, the inaccessibility of the area may have affected the distribution of relief materials to the residents as a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told journalists that it was difficult to get to the area and that the agency was waiting on the JTF in Maiduguri to provide security.