Nigeria Residents Flee as Islamists Attack Northeastern Town

The Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram has attacked the northeastern town of Michika, forcing thousands of people to flee, residents said.

The attack began early yesterday when hundreds of insurgents arrived on motorcycles, Kabiru Abubakar, a 23-year-old resident, said by phone. The militants may be moving toward Yola, the Adamawa state capital, about 230 kilometers (143 miles) south of the town, Michika local council Chairman Vandi Pavanza said.

“We are in a state of fear honestly,” Pavanza said by phone today from Yola. “These people are moving towards Yola where thousands of internally displaced persons are taking refuge.” Michika, about 70 kilometers south of Gwoza, is where Boko Haram last month declared a “caliphate under Islamic law.”

The group, whose name means “western education is a sin,” has waged a five-year insurgency to Islamize Africa’s most populous nation of 170 million people. More than 350,000 people in the northeastern states, where the violence is fiercest, fled their homes in the first seven months, according to the National Emergency Management Agency. Escalating attacks in the last few weeks suggest Boko Haram is attempting to capture major cities in the northeast, authorities said.

The insurgents are displacing “whole villages and towns,” Liman Tukur, an Adamawa state spokesman, said in a statement yesterday.

Targeting Capitals

In neighboring Borno state, authorities say Boko Haram may be heading for the state capital of Maiduguri as its fighters clash with soldiers along the way, Ahmed Zanna, senator for Borno Central, said Sept. 6.

Nigerian forces launched air strikes on Bama, about 72 kilometers southeast of Maiduguri, last week to recapture the town from the Islamist group. Clashes also occurred between Bama and Maiduguri in towns such as Kawuri, according to the military.

“The entire place remains an operation area,” defense headquarters spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said by text message from Abuja today. “Wherever it is the terrorists are targeting, it is our job to stop them from achieving their objective,” he wrote, declining to comment further.

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