BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI, Abuja
Special Forces of the Nigerian Army yesterday routed hundreds of Boko Haram terrorists including foreign mercenaries who invaded Konduga town about 35 kilometres from Maiduguri with a view to setting up a camp and planning to attack Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. This resulted in the killing of more than 80 insurgents, the military said.
Also, indications have emerged that there was unease and grumbling in the military over a new directive said to be issued by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh suspending all military personnel from proceeding on annual leave, pass (excuse duty) and pilgrimages to either Mecca or Jerusalem.
However, Saturday Vanguard reliably gathered that scores of the insurgents who were taken aback that Nigerian soldiers stood their ground and returned heavy fire for same including artillery fire, took to their heels with many sustaining bullet wounds as shown by blood stains leading to the bush around the town.
After the fighting between the insurgents and troops, several dangerous weapons including Anti-Aircraft Guns, GPMGs, Global Positioning Systems, and 30 AK 47 rifles were recovered from the camp. Three Hilux jeeps mounted with automatic technical weapons were also recovered.
Confirming the development in a statement signed by Colonel Timothy Antigha, Army headquarters said, “At about 5.30 am today (yesterday), Boko Haram terrorists launched a massive attack on Konduga town, about 35 kilometres from Maiduguri.
“After about three hours of fierce fighting, Nigerian troops routed the Boko Haram fighting force of over a hundred terrorists.
“Further to the staggering loss of men, Boko Haram also suffered extensive losses in equipment.
“Specifically, three Hilux and one Buffalo vehicles with mounted Anti-aircraft guns, three General Purpose Machine guns, over 30 AK 47 rifles and two global positioning systems have been recovered”.
“Four Nigerian soldiers were wounded in action. The entire area is still being combed for terrorists who may have escaped with bullet wounds”. Morale of troops remains very high”.
Unease as military suspends annual leave, pilgrimage for officers
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the suspension of annual leave and pilgrimage for officers were aimed primarily at dissuading officers and soldiers of the three forces of the Army, Navy and Air force from abdicating their duty post especially now that the war against terrorists in the North East is assuming frightening dimensions.
It was gathered further that new and unforeseen happenings in the ongoing insurgency battle like desertions by soldiers, and those who resort to escapist tactics of all sorts to avoid deployment to the theater of battle necessitated the directive.
The source revealed that the directive which was communicated to all the services, army, navy and air force takes immediate effect.
Noting that the signal issuing the directive gave the date of commencement as ‘immediate effect’, the source said the signal cancelled all initially approved leave, passes and request for pilgrimages while those already enjoying any vacation have been recalled to their duty posts.
“Failure to heed the directive, of course, will be met with appropriate sanctions in line with the terms and conditions of service of armed forces statutes” Saturday Vanguard was told.
The directive according to Vanguard’s finding has however received flaks from a lot of officers and soldiers who see no correlation between the fighting in the North East and a lawful part of the job of proceeding on annual leave after such hectic devotion to duty.
Also, stopping officers from traveling to holy lands to perform their religious obligations and in the process pray for peace in the nation is seen as discouraging and an affront on the fundamental rights of those who so wish to do so.
Wondering if the Presidency was aware of such a decision and its implication on the morale of troops and their families, officers noted however that if the decision was a common one between the CDS and the Service Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air force, there would be little personnel could do other than to obey.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that about 300 military officers both Muslims and Christians go on pilgrimages annually.