The population of the town of Damboa in northern Nigeria has now become a mass of 15,000 internally displaced refugees. After the town organized a citizen vigilante effort to rid its region of the jihadist terror group Boko Haram, the terrorists returned, dressed as beggars, and ambushed the villagers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Damboa was made an example last month as citizen arrest groups became increasingly popular in attempts to fight off the threat of Boko Haram. The Agence France-Presse first reported the assault on July 22, with few details. Nigerian police forces declared in a statement, “Security agencies are firming up deployment of troops in the entire area,” despite the fact that a complete absence of state security allowed Boko Haram to ravage the town. Additionally, they stated, “We are also going to reverse every form of insecurity in that area very soon.”
The details of the attack The Wall Street Journal provides are harrowing. Boko Haram members walked door to door, disguised as beggars, and asked for charity. Anyone who opened the door was viciously attacked. Gunmen, witnesses say, paraded around the town, yelling, “You thought we would never come? Well, here we are!” Residents say only the elderly who physically could not flee remain.
Damboa is not a unique example, but perhaps the largest, sending up to 15,000 people out to seek new homes. According to the United Nations, more than half a million people are currently internally displaced in Nigeria, due to Boko Haram. The WSJ notes that Boko Haram succeeded at such devastation by targeting increasingly large towns, killing larger and larger numbers, and reportedly now controlling most of the northeastern state of Borno.