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Escape from Sambisa: My ordeal in Boko Haram’s den – Mechanic

Mubi, a key town in Adamawa State, and primed for killing, Kwatri, a household provisions seller, was saved from death by his disclosure that he was a mechanic. He also shouted to the hearing of all that he was a Muslim and repeatedly chanted: Allahu Akbar.
Kwatri is a Christian. But, faced with certain death in the hands of bloodhounds, he told members of the sect that he was a Muslim. On Sunday, some suspected hideouts of the sect in Nigeria came under joint land and aerial attacks of the military from Niger and Chad. Daily Times me Kwatri at the NYSC camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Damare, in the state, where he was still mortally afraid of the group and the atrocities its members perpetrated in his presence. He claimed the name Mohammed and acted the part of Muslim. He was doubly lucky: When the marauding terrorists learnt he was a mechanic, they knew he could be put to good use – as is expected, their vehicles often need the attention of mechanics.
He told Daily Times: “I regret the day I chose to go to Mubi to buy goods for my provision shop in Michika. On that fateful day, I remember I asked my wife what should I buy for her and she replied that I should buy anything eatable. On reaching Maraban Mubi, I noticed that all the roads were blocked and I told myself that it must be the Nigerian army because all the people there were wearing khaki. “Unknown to me, they were Boko Haram and had already levelled the whole of Maraban Mubi. There was nowhere to run to as the roads were heavily blocked by gun-toting. Suddenly, somebody barked orders at me. I immediately knew that my life was in danger.”
Then, one of the terrorists asked: “What do you do for a living?” His response: “I lied and said, ‘I am a mechanic and shouted Allahu Akbar’. One of them said they should not kill me because of my skills as a mechanic.” The men then bundled Kwatri into a Hilux pickup van and drove deep into Sambisa forest,” he said. The escapee continued: “There I saw thousands of people from all walks of life doing one thing or the other. The Boko Haram members are really prepared for anything, seeing how well-organized they are and the structure of their leadership. They took me to a place they called training camp. There I noticed that all they do is to inculcate their beliefs and different orientation of Islam in people. It is a total brain wash of strange Islamic beliefs.
“What we mostly did at that stage was to maintain the day to day affairs of domestic issues based on what your field is. On a daily basis, we were made to go to a training camp where they taught us how to handle guns and manufacture bombs.” His dramatic escape came the day their chief instructor was changed and another person who bears ghis adopted name took over. “The chief instructor was given a different assignment and they brought somebody called Alhaji Mohammed. He asked me my name. Fortunately, we are namesakes; my former name was no longer what I was answering. I answered Mohammed, Our new instructor became fond of me. God gave me favour in sight. One day, he asked me whether I wanted to see my family in Michika and I said yes.
“The following day Oga Mohammed sent me on errand to get him one of abducted women in the next camp which was close to the Michika mountains, a walk of about 50 kilometers and I told myself if I could trek that far, why should I not try to escape? I told myself if I die, I die and if I live, in live. I trekked as fast as I could. Before I knew it, I had arrived in Michika. I discovered that the place was still under the siege by Boko Haram. I looked for where to hide for the next day. At dawn, I sneaked away through a route to Hong and from Hong to Yola camp for displaced persons where I met so many people from my town in a pitiable situation. As I am talking to you, I can find my wife and children.” Meanwhile, Niger and Chad on Sunday launched major ground and air strikes against Boko Haram, after the militants formally pledged allegiance to the Islamic state group in Syria and Iraq.
The attacks, which follow a sustained build-up of troops in southern Niger, opens up a new front in regional efforts to wipe out the Islamist group, whose six-year insurgency has spread across borders. “Very early this morning, troops from Niger and Chad began an offensive against Boko Haram… in the area of Bosso and near to Diffa,” a Niger government source in Niamey told AFP on condition of anonymity.
More than 200 vehicles, some of them with machine guns, as well as tanks, ambulances, water tankers and transport trucks, were seen moving towards the border, radio station Anfani, based in Diffa, said. Aircraft targeted Boko Haram positions on Saturday and early Sunday, it added, while a Diffa resident and aid worker said troops were seen heading to the border and heavy gunfire was heard. The previously lacklustre counter-insurgency against Boko Haram has been given renewed vigour with the deployment of troops from Cameroon, Chad and Niger last month.
The armies have claimed a series of successes in rebel-held territory in recent weeks, as part of an operation to clear and control northeast Nigeria in time for general elections set for March 28. Much of the focus has been on Chad’s well-trained army, who have experience in tackling Al- Qaeda-linked extremists in Mali alongside French forces. But Nigeria’s military spokesman Chris Olukolade said the Nigerien and Chadian attacks were “complementary to the ongoing push against the terrorists” that it was heading.
“The mission of routing the terrorists from Nigeria’s territory is being conducted from various fronts in and out of Nigeria and is achieving expected results so far,” he said in a text message. The African Union on Friday endorsed the creation of an additional regional force of up to 10,000 men to join the fight against Boko Haram. Western powers have so far largely stayed out of direct involvement in the conflict, viewing it as an essentially “local” or regional problem. But Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State in an audio message on Saturday night, could be a game-changer, according to analysts.
“Operating as an IS proxy could draw Western efforts against its operations, particularly from France, which already runs a multi-country anti-terrorist campaign in the west and central African region,” said Ryan Cummings, from risk consultants Red24. “Operation Barkhane’s headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena is just a stone’s throw away from Boko Haram’s area of operations in northeast Nigeria,” he added.

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