Troops retake Baga, clear 1,500 mines
BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI, Abuja
Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, fleeing the heavy air bombardments from Nigerian Air Force fighter jets, have drowned in Lake Chad. This reportedly happened during the air strikes heralding the advance of Nigerian troops on mission to flush them out of Baga, Borno State.
Not even the strategy of mining over 1,500 spots with land mines on the routes leading to the town could save the fighters from the aggressive move of advancing troops.
Sunday Vanguard was told that during the coordinated air and land operation, sinister attempts by the fighters to catch the troops unawares with the planting of land mines proved useless as all the mines were cleared one after the other.
Nigerian Army recently procured and deployed several counter mines sweeping armoured personnel carriers (APC) and other sophisticated equipment with capability to detect mines planted at 1,000 meters radius.
The resistance of the Boko Haram insurgents was said to collapsed and the land forces stormed the town in the early hours of Friday.
Baga, which hitherto served as the headquarters of the Joint Multi-National Task Force, JMNTF, eventually fell to Nigerian military by 2pm yesterday.
Many of the fighters died while an unknown but substantial number fled with various degrees of injury, in the encounter along the routes of advance as troops headed for Baga.
A statement from the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), signed by Major General Chris Olukolade, Director of Defence Information, said, “Apart from the five anti aircraft guns and the rifles captured from the terrorists, over 34 motorcycles and five vehicles including trucks, being used for operations by the terrorists, were destroyed in the course of the fighting as troops headed for Baga.
“The troops finally began clearing the terrorists from Baga on arrival in the town Saturday morning.
“A comprehensive cordon and search phase of military operation has now commenced to enable troops mop up arms and ammunition and also apprehend any terrorist who might be hiding in the vicinity.
“The exercise will also determine details of the casualties inflicted or incurred in the course of the operations to clear Baga and environ of terrorists.
“Similar exercise is being carried out in over 12 locations namely Gajigana, Ngaze, Ngenzai, Marte Junction, Mile 90, Yoyo, Kekeno, Kukawa, Cross Kauwa, Kangarwa, Amirari and other localities where troops have flushed out the terrorists in the operations preceding the entry to Baga.
“The troops are now dominating and conducting aggressive patrols in the locations. The morale of troops remains high.”
It will be recalled that hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, looking to rearm the group attacked Baga early in the year killing people estimated at over 3, 000 by international organizations while the DHQ put the number of dead at about 150 persons.