By Akanimo Sampson
Two days after a deadly Boko Haram second attack in five days, houses in Damasak, a town in Borno State are still empty as residents have fled to the Niger Republic for safety.
Damasak is the head town of the Mobbar Local Government Area of the troubled state. It is located near the confluence of the Yobe River and Komadugu Gana River, adjoining the border with Niger.
Wikipedia says two primary roads reach Damasak. One heads south to Gubio and Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, and the other heads east towards Kukawa and Baga.
In recent years, advancing desertification in Northern Nigeria has affected Damasak.
Legend has it that the town was founded by Kamkama Modu, a Karde from Bagirmi.
Damasak was a stronghold of the Sao civilisation in the 16th century and was surrounded by thick high trapezoidal walls.
It was conquered by Idris Alooma after a siege in the 1570s or the 1580s, as recorded by Ibn Furtu (who refers to the Sao as the “Sao-Gafata”).
The current location of Damasak is probably not its original location. Historian Graham Connah visited the area in 1965 and a group of local men reported that the present site of Damasak is about 1 km west of its prior location (where mounds can be found), and which they reported was abandoned in the first half of the 1800s but had been occupied for approximately 100 years.
German explorer Heinrich Barth (1821-1865) reported in the 1850s that Damasak (spelt as Dammasak) could still be identified from a basin of the river named after it, but that it was currently called “Fatoghana”. He also reports that Edris, the King of Bornu from 1353–76, died at Damasak according to some accounts.
In March 2015, at least 70 dead bodies were found outside the town. They were discovered soon after the town had been retaken from Boko Haram.
On March 24, 2015, residents said that Boko Haram had kidnapped more than 400 women and children from the town as they fled from coalition forces earlier in the month.
In the first attack on April 10, the insurgents killed two soldiers and two civilians, while also destroying the facilities of global aid agencies.
They merely retreated and returned on Tuesday to the border town, to inflict more havoc.
They stormed the town at about 5 pm, shooting sporadically and also armed with anti-aircraft guns mounted on vehicles.
According to Reuters, the insurgents killed at least ten people and caused hundreds to flee to neighbouring Niger, just some five kilometres away.
“Boko Haram men are still at Damasak”, said local government official Bukar Mustapha.
“Ten residents were killed in attacks on Tuesday. Our people have fled to villages in Niger while some are trapped in the bush”, he said.
Resident Mustapha Gashigar said eight people had been buried but other bodies had not been recovered, and 17 were seriously injured.
He said hundreds of people had fled Damasak.
Boko Haram and and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, has not claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
However, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the April 10 strike.