MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA - Officials from the Nigerian city of Bama are refuting government claims that troops have recaptured the municipality from Boko Haram militants.
Muhammed Hussan, head of the Bama Development Association, told reporters on Thursday that Bama remains under Boko Haram control and residents are in dire need of help.
“We are calling on state and federal government to expedite action towards reclaiming Bama from the hands of terror," he said. "Those in captivity are under serious trauma, starvation, distress with serious degree of injuries, while on the other hand, those that have lost their lives are yet to be buried.”
Boko Haram attacked the flashpoint city in northeast Borno state early on the morning of September 1. The army said it had pushed the militants back, but residents say insurgents ultimately overpowered soldiers and took control of the area.
Speaking to reporters in the state capital, Maiduguri, some 70 kilometers northwest of Bama, Hussan said some residents drowned while fleeing across nearby rivers during the battle, while others were shot dead.
The violence has raised concerns that militants could advance on the state capital.
Despite reports earlier this week that government airstrikes had driven the militants from Bama, chairman of Borno State Committee on Displaced Persons, Alhaji Jidda Shuwa, said that does not appear to be true.
“To the best of my knowledge and from the reports I have received ... Bama appears to be still under the control of the insurgents," he said. "But I have been made to reliably understand [that] the military are pushing ahead to go and capture Bama.”
Shuwa said these reports came from 133 Bama residents who arrived Thursday. His organization estimates 7,000 displaced people from Bama have fled to the state capital since it fell, mostly on foot.
Boko Haram has been seizing control of Borno state towns since the group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, announced creation of a caliphate last month.
The group of Islamist radicals is blamed for thousands of deaths since beginning its uprising against the Nigerian government five years ago.