Gamboru has a few things going for it, and would have even more, were the Lake Chad region booming. Situated one of the trans-Africa trade routes, in the east and north of Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, it is on the road to Maiduguri, if you are coming from Chad or Cameroon, and Maiduguri is where the action is, up here in the impoverished and war-torn Sahel, the great stretch of Savannah and desert that makes a belt across the Continent below the Sahara.
According to reports, Boko Haram fighters encircled the city last week after terrorizing the surrounding region, and launched an assault on the weekend.
Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state, a big hub and with an airport and roads into the Nigerian interior. While it does not carry the symbolism of a town like Timbuktu in northern Mali, which Islamist insurgents seized in 2012 and held for a year before being chased out by French and African troops, its economic and political importance is greater, and it would be a big psychological and political blow to Nigeria if it were seized, even briefly, by the same kinds of bad guys who grabbed Mali’s Sahel-Sahara regions.