In an astonishing move and after a deadly and drawn-out battle in Geidam – which began last Friday and ended on Wednesday − members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) gave 20,000 naira to each person they came across in the town.
A security agent, who asked to remain anonymous, told RNI reporter Lawan Bukar Maigana that the insurgents handed out money to residents on Wednesday – when the fighting stopped − but they did not ask them to join ISWAP.
He said residents were “astonished and confounded” but they took the money.
“No one knows why they gave people money,” he said.
Although they did not force anyone to join, the ISWAP members told residents that anyone who wanted to join the group would be welcomed.
They handed out letters, containing the group’s rules, to residents.
The ISWAP fighters stormed the town on Friday. They arrived in eight trucks − fitted with machine guns − just as Geidam residents were preparing to break the Ramadan fast.
They headed to the military base where vicious gunfights began.
There were reports that a number of soldiers died in the attack but these could not be confirmed. The number of insurgents killed was also unknown.
A town administrator said 11 residents were killed when a projectile hit two adjoining homes.
A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed the deaths, saying six occupants of one house and five from the other were killed.
According to an aid agency, wounded residents and soldiers were receiving treatment at a government health facility.
Thousands of residents managed to flee to neighbouring towns and villages, but some remained trapped in the town. They were told to stay indoors to avoid getting hit in the crossfire.
More than 2,000 people were displaced during the prolonged siege, in which insurgents destroyed telecom masts, limiting communications and shutting down MTN and Airtel services.
The insurgents used a primary school as their operational base.
The security agent said people had begun to return to their homes and Geidam had been stabilised.
“The military is back in control and peace has been restored,” he said.
He denied that insurgents had taken over the town.
“Geidam has never been taken over by any terrorist elements and it will never happen while there is still breath in our bodies.”
He said people should stop spreading or believing rumours and instead they should check the facts. “There is not a single ISWAP member in Geidam except for informants.”
Authorities were “working tirelessly” to identify people who were “feeding the insurgents with “resourceful information”.
He said anyone caught giving information to the insurgents would “face the wrath of the law”.