Members of the terrorist group Boko Haram have been gathering in the northeast town of Gwoza, now said to be the group’s headquarters. They killed residents who were unable to flee, a senator and witnesses told reporters on Thursday.
According to a female resident who fled Gwoza and spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, the insurgents rounded up elderly men who were studying the Holy Quran outside the home of a local cleric and later killed them in front of their wives.
“The Boko Haram men brought out brand new guns from cartons, tested them and shot dead all the men who they forced to lie face down,” she said.
Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno South at the National Assembly, also confirmed the large build-up of insurgents in Gwoza.
“Boko Haram insurgents have in recent days been converging in Gwoza where they killed many male residents and chased women and children out of the town,” said Ndume.
Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau had last June proclaimed Gwoza part of a caliphate. Although the military has recaptured several towns from the insurgents, it is yet to take back Gwoza.
Ndume speculated that the Islamists were preparing to defend the symbolically important town before an expected military advance, possibly by Chadian troops who are operating in the area with Nigeria’s permission and have been ruthlessly driving out insurgents. Chadian President Idriss Deby on Wednesday claimed he knew where Shekau was and called on him to surrender while vowing to “wipe out” the Islamists.
Many people in the town on the Cameroon border fled amid the rebel takeover in June but many others — including those too old or sick to run — stayed behind. There were also indications that Boko Haram tried to reassure people that it was safe to stay in the town and live under the caliphate.