BAUCHI, Nigeria — Residents of a town attacked by Boko Haram said at least 50 bodies have been recovered, many horribly burned, and they criticized security forces for failing to prevent the attack even though they had been warned that the Islamic militants were nearby.
The attack on Gamboru town, in remote northeastern Borno state near the border with Cameroon, happened Monday. The death toll was initially reported by a senator to be as many as 300, but a security official said it is more likely to be around 100. The attack happened in the same state, Borno, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 girls from a school last month. Most of those girls remain in captivity, believed to be in the vast Sambisa forest.
Some Gamboru residents said bodies were recovered from the debris of burned shops after the town’s main market came under attack on Monday afternoon.
Gamboru resident Abuwar Masta said the bodies were found after the market reopened on Wednesday as health workers, volunteers and traders searched for missing people. He said most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.
“It seems they hid in the shops in order not be killed while fleeing,” Masta said. “Unfortunately, several explosives were thrown into the market.”
Masta and other traders said that some villagers had warned the security forces of an impending attack after insurgents were seen camping in the bushes near Gamboru.
The kidnapping of the schoolgirls on April 15 in the town of Chibok as well as Boko Haram’s repeated attacks have sparked accusations that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to stop the militants.
To help the Nigerian government locate and free the schoolgirls, the U.S. military is contributing to an U.S. government interagency “coordination and assessment cell” that will advise and assist the Nigerians with communications, logistics, and intelligence. On Thursday, the Defense Department announced that 11 troops who were already on the ground in Nigeria have formed the core of the cell. Another team of military experts, primarily from U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, will arrive in country in the coming days to augment the cell, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters. That team from Stuttgart will consist of fewer than 10 personnel, Warren said. The cell will operate from the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Although the U.S. military is contributing to the advisory effort, the Pentagon does not have any intention of using American special operations forces against Boko Haram to liberate their captives, according to Warren.
“At this time we are not considering a U.S. operation to help rescue the girls,” he said Wednesday, when DOD first unveiled its plan to assist the Nigerians.