By EMEKA MAMAH, KINGSLEY OMONOBI & NDAHI MARAMA
Troops yesterday used jets and attack helicopters to bombard Boko Haram Islamic camps in Sambisa Game Reserve, in Borno State, which is one of their strongholds killing a number of the insurgents. The Sambisa Camps are believed to be harbouring their training and enrolment base.
Over 3,600 military personnel comprising the Army, Navy, Police, the Department of State Security, DSS and other security agencies and men of Counter Terrorists Squad, CTS, are said to be involved in the campaign to rout the Boko Haram insurgents from their hideouts in the affected states.
Heavy weapons belonging to the insurgents including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were destroyed by the military fighter jets even as the Nigerian Army’s artillery long range surface to air guns were also being used.
Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade told Reuters that several camps had been attacked, including the game reserve in Borno state, but did not give further details.
“A number of insurgents have been killed. There are a lot of casualties. It is not just Sambisa, every camp is under attack. But we have not done the mopping up operations on the ground to determine the numbers killed,” Olukolade said, adding that, “there have been air strikes since Wednesday, and were continuing yesterday. I cannot tell you the actual number of terrorists killed, but I am optimistic we are making headway, and at the end of the operation, we will be commended.”
An unconfirmed report however, said that one of the air strike jets was shot by the insurgents, ‘’but the pilots manoeuvred it successfully and landed safely at the base.’’
This military offensive continued just as the Army said yesterday that its personnel in Daura, Katsina State foiled an attempt by the Boko Haram sect to overrun the ancient town by attacking and bombing government and public institutions like police stations and banks, causing mayhem and disrupting the peace of the residents of the area.
Borno and Yobe states and their environs have remained for two days without communication as all the GSM networks were cut off to enable the military accomplish their mission without hitches.
No fewer than 35 of the insurgents had so far been killed during the air strikes on their training camps.
Military Spokesman, Olukolade confirmed that jets and helicopter gunships had been used to attack several camps.
Nigerian forces are trying to regain territory controlled by increasingly well-armed Boko Haram Islamist insurgents in their north-eastern stronghold states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which were put under a state of emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday.
At Gamboru, Ngala and Marte towns on the border with Cameroon in northern Borno, residents said that heavily armed troops and tanks arrived on Wednesday, sealing off previously unmanned border posts.
Some sources said that many innocent people, particularly those residing in the remote areas along were not aware of the operations.The Defence Headquarters in an update on the battle to dislodge Boko Haram from the Northern borders of the country, confirmed earlier reports that it destroyed some terrorists camps in Northern and Central Borno.
In a statement in the evening, Olubolade said the soldiers destroyed much of the insurgents’ weapons and logistics including vehicles, fuel dumps, containers and power generators.
The statement read, “advancing troops of Special Task Force, STF, have destroyed some terrorists camps sited in the forests of northern and central Borno. Heavy weapons including anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns were also destroyed in the process.
“The casualties inflicted on the insurgents in the cause of the assault will be verified during mop up. The Defence Headquarters is quite satisfied with the progress of the operation and the fighting spirit of participating troops. The STF has been enjoined to sustain the tempo.
“Meanwhile, border posts have all been manned by security agents to prevent escape or infiltrations by insurgents.”
Meanwhile, the Army said that in the ensuing battle that followed the foiled attack by Boko Haram to overrun Daura, lasted for four hours, it lost two soldiers, just as an officer was shot and wounded while five Boko Haram terrorists were killed and their vehicle recovered.
The Chief of Civil Military Affairs, CMA, Major General Bola Koleoso, who spoke on the issue said, “Two Boko Haram terrorists were killed during gunfire exchange while three who escaped in their vehicle, had a road traffic accident and died thus bringing the death to five.
“The distress call (over the attack), came to our unit (35 Battalion) located in Katsina. Immediately, our troops moved into Daura to take charge of the situation. Some quantities of Improvised Explosive Devices, IED’s were recovered. Two Golf cars, 10 AK 47 riffles used by the terrorists were recovered.”
Keleoso said some of the terrorists escaped with bullet wounds and requested members of the public, to report to the nearest security agency, any person found with such wounds.
“Additionally, hospitals and clinics are also warned not to treat any cases of gunshot wounds without reporting such cases to security agencies. We also wish to emphasize that civilians who hide Boko Haram terrorists will put themselves in danger as they will be acting against the public and national interests,” he said.
On the attack on Bama where Boko Haram terrorists attempted to overrun the Army Barracks there, Gen Koleoso said, “All of us are aware of what happened in Bama, the accusations and all. But it has been found that Boko Haram Terrorists in fake army camouflage uniforms were actually responsible for the burning of the houses and the killing of the civilians.
“The following day, after the incident, several civilians were treated in the multi-national JTF clinic in Baga by our medical team. Our uniforms are being used in disguise.
’’In fact, in a number of instances, these terrorists have burnt down buildings and vehicles in Maiduguri and all these dastardly acts were blamed on the soldiers of the Nigerian army just because they could not distinguish the fake uniform worn by impersonators from the well kitted and trained members of the Nigerian Army.”
On fears being expressed that the massive deployment of troops in the entire Northern flank for the operation to flush out Boko Haram in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states might affect security arrangements in other parts of the country where there are crisis, the CMA said, “Nigerians should feel free to go about their normal activities. Nigerians should feel very safe. Our barracks and formations are still in place. It doesn’t mean that because of the emergency, then troops will not be available for other operations.”