Residents and government troops flee as an armed group invaded a town in Nigeria’s Borno state in the attack claimed by ISIL.
Government troops and hundreds of residents were forced to flee after an armed group invaded a town and captured a military base in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, in a claimed attack by ISIS (ISIS) group, security sources said.
Machine gun fighters from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the base in the town of Marte in the Lake Chad region overnight from Friday to Saturday, two sources told the AFP press agency.
“The priority now is to recover the terrorist base and an operation is underway,” one of the sources said on Saturday.
“We have been hit by ISWAP terrorists. They attacked Marte base after a fierce battle.
The second source said the army had “suffered losses” but it was not yet clear how many people had died or the level of destruction inflicted by the armed group.
An army statement said the troops “withdrew tactically” to defend against an attack outside Marte. The troops had “effectively destroyed” seven gun trucks and “decimated” an unconfirmed number of attackers, he said.
ISIL subsequently published a statement on its Amaq news channel on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack.
Without giving further details, he said seven people were killed and one captured, and that his fighters seized weapons, ammunition and six four-wheel drive vehicles, as well as burned the army barracks.
Marte remained under the control of the armed group on Saturday, security sources told Reuters news agency.
Friday’s assault came just two months after residents driven from their homes by violence returned to the city as part of a government program.
It highlights the precarious security situation in northeast Nigeria and the challenges the government faces as it attempts to return those displaced by violence.
ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, maintains camps on islands in Lake Chad – where Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad meet – and the region is known to be the stronghold of group.
Last week, fighters attacked the base in Marte but were pushed back, prompting them to mobilize more fighters for the night raid, sources said.
The raid was seen as a “response” after the recent losses – troops recently invaded ISWAP’s second largest camp in the village of Talala, sources said.
The city, 130 km (80 miles) from the regional capital Maiduguri, was once considered the breadbasket of the Lake Chad region.
At least 36,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict since 2009 and the violence has spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition.