CHADIAN troops on Saturday returned to the northeast Nigerian border town of Gamboru, locals said, after Boko Haram took advantage of a lack of military presence to kill 11 people.
“Hundreds of Chadian troops moved into Gamboru this morning from Fotokol,” said Babagana Karimbe, who lives in the town in northern Cameroon which is separated from Gamboru by a bridge.
Troops from Chad were credited last month with liberating Gamboru in Borno state from Boko Haram control but the Chadians’ withdrawal from Nigeria last week appeared to have left the town exposed.
The Islamists returned on Wednesday, killing eight people, while three more were killed on Thursday.
Karimbe told AFP that the deployment began at about 7:20 am (0620 GMT) and involved dozens of vehicles, including tanks.?
“They are now in Gamboru. It is clear Boko Haram gunmen had fled before the troops deployed because we have not heard a single shot since the Chadian soldiers moved in,” he added.
“Our prayer is for the troops to remain in Gamboru because if they withdraw again Boko Haram will definitely return and continue killing people.”
THE lack of security presence exposed an apparent lack of coordination between the allies, whose sustained offensive has led to the recapture of dozens of towns in northeast Nigeria.
Chadian troops had pushed into Nigerian territory after freeing Gamboru, going on to retake the Borno town of Dikwa, near Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold.
Fotokol resident Umar Ari said by telephone that Gamboru residents welcomed the soldiers with clapping and cheering, supporting Karimbe’s account that no shots were fired.
“From Gardumba neighbourhood (on the outskirts of Fotokol) we can see the Chadian soldiers moving around Gamboru but we have not seen any Boko Haram gunmen,” he added.
“We catch glimpses of Boko Haram ?gunmen whenever they are in Gamboru. On Wednesday we saw them riding around Gamboru on motorcycles brandishing guns”.
The regional offensive involving Nigerian troops, Chad, Cameroon and Niger was cited as a reason for postponing the Nigerian general election, which was initially scheduled for February 14.
It will now take place on March 28, with President Goodluck Jonathan hoping to capitalise on the reversal of the insurgents’ military fortunes in his quest for re-election.