A top Boko Haram operative was gunned down Sunday in northwestern Nigeria just as he was setting up a new base of operation for the terror group that has been wreaking havoc in the northeastern part of Africa’s most populous country for the past several years, according to reports out of the region.
The man, whose name was given only as “Usman” and was referred to as a Boko Haram “kingpin,” had reportedly relocated from the terror group’s base to the Nigerian city of Kaduna, where the top operative and his underlings had recently begun gathering guns and other armaments after integrating themselves into the community there.
The gunfight happened a day after 63 women and girls held captive by Boko Haram in the northeast made a daring run to freedom and escaped.
But Nigeria’s security forces tracked the man there and on Sunday, surrounded his house in Kaduna and demanded that he surrender. Rather than give up, the top Boko Haram terrorist opened fire, starting a brutal gun battle that was reported to have lasted about an hour.
Information on Usman’s location came from captured Boko Haram militants who were interrogated by Nigeria security officers.
“The soldiers kept shouting his name to come out of his house. He resisted arrest and started shooting from the ceiling where he was hiding,” said a resident of the Kinkino neighborhood of Kaduna where the suspect was holed up.
“Initially we thought it was armed robbers that had invaded our area and we were making frantic calls to the police. But later discovered that it was a combined team of soldiers and police who came to arrest two people suspected to be Boko Haram members,” said another.
The neighborhood residents said that Usman arrived in the area about two months earlier and had appeared to a normal resident, taking part in religious services with the rest of the community.
Usman’s brother was reportedly also killed in the gunfight.
“You can now see the sacrifice our troops are making for the preservation of Nigeria’s sovereignty and territory. The terrorists were hiding here for months until our breakthrough,” said a security officer, speaking to journalists from the Sahara Reporters news site. “Our soldiers had to dig a hole to enter the house as you can see. The [Boko Haram] men gave our soldiers a tough time, but we triumphed over them.”
The security officer told Sahara Reporters that Usman and his brother. “had their hands in several severe attacks carried out by [Boko Haram] in the northeast and other parts of the North. Just imagine what they would have done in Kaduna and surrounding areas if they were able to establish a footing here.”
The Boko Haram leader was said to have two wives and three children, who disappeared after coming back to the site of the gunfight Monday to retrieve some belongings, according to other residents.