Chadian troops, which weekend accused the Nigerian troops of being afraid to occupy recaptured towns returned to the northeast Nigerian border town of Gamboru after Boko Haram took advantage of a lack of military presence to kill 11 people. “Hundreds of Chadian troops moved into Gamboru this morning (yesterday) from Fotokol,” said Babagana Karimbe, who lives in the town in northern Cameroon which is separated from Gamboru by a bridge.
The Islamists returned on Wednesday, killing eight people, while three more were killed on Thursday. Karimbe told AFP that the deployment began at about 7:20 am (0620 GMT) and involved dozens of vehicles, including tanks.
According to him, “they (Chadian troops) are now in Gamboru. It is clear Boko Haram gunmen had fled before the troops deployed arrived because we have not heard a single shot since the Chadian soldiers moved in. Our prayer is for the troops to remain in Gamboru because if they withdraw again Boko Haram will definitely return and continue killing people.”
Chadian troops had pushed into Nigerian territory after freeing Gamboru, going on to retake the Borno town of Dikwa, near Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold. Fotokol resident Umar Ari said by telephone that Gamboru residents welcomed the soldiers with clapping and cheering, supporting Karimbe’s account that no shots were fired.
He said, “From Gardumba neighbourhood (on the outskirts of Fotokol) we can see the Chadian soldiers moving around Gamboru but we have not seen any Boko Haram gunmen. We catch glimpses of Boko Haram gunmen whenever they are in Gamboru. On Wednesday we saw them riding around Gamboru on motorcycles brandishing guns”.
The Chadian Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat was quoted in a report by The New York Times on Friday that “the Nigerian Army has not succeeded in facing Boko Haram. The occupation of these towns is up to Nigeria and our biggest wish is that the Nigerian Army pulls itself together, that it takes responsibility in the towns, we are ready to disengage right away.
Also, Second Lieutenant Hassan of the Chadian Army was quoted as having berated the Nigerian troops as failing in their responsibilities. He had said, “we asked them to come and receive this town from us but they have not come, it is because they are afraid. We fought on the night of the 14th and on the 15th and called the Nigerian troops on the 16th to come and occupy the town we liberated but they didn’t believe we were here. It is up to them to hold the town, not us. Our role is offensive, our mission is to chase the terrorists”.
The Nigerian military however explained that the reluctance to occupy the liberated towns was informed by past experiences whereby Nigerian troops were lured into ambush by sympathisers of Boko Haram terrorists Vanguard gathered that the Military High Command at the weekend directed Commanders of troops in the epicentre of the battle to stay in their bases and captured locations until distress calls from unknown sources are verified.
A military source said, “in the past, our troops had been lured away from liberated communities by unpatriotic elements to respond to distress calls only for them to either be ambushed on their way or for terrorists to be able to re-occupy those communities. Consequently, we have warned them to maintain their positions and hold every community that they liberate pending further official instructions and we expect our Multinational Joint Task Force partners to also keep their own part of the bargain in line with the memorandum of understanding that we all signed.”
According to the senior military officer, “some of the unsavoury comments have been attributed often times to unnamed officials of its neighbouring Francophone countries involved in the MNJTF which were obviously meant to disparage the image of Nigeria and bring its armed forces to ridicule” a source said.
Vanguard gathered the Defence Headquarters was especially piqued about distracting comments such as the one announcing that some of the cooperating countries have been entering Nigerian territory without Federal Government authorisation or that DHQ refused to respond to calls by MJTF partners to send troops to liberated communities.
“We have warned them to maintain their positions and hold every community that they liberate pending further official instructions and we expect MJTF partners to also keep their own part of the bargain in line with the memorandum of understanding that we all signed”, the source said
Meanwhile in a tweet yesterday in response to another of such remarks, Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said, “There are lots of false information and irresponsible comments being attributed to some foreign sources which we want to avoid making comments to purely because we don’t believe such is coming from any serious and responsible officer of government.
“Responding to such claims could cause unnecessary distraction intended to jeopardise our counter-terrorist campaign or operations. We will not respond for now.”Meanwhile, troops backed by Nigerian air force helicopters gunships at the weekend foiled an attack by a band of Boko Haram terrorists on parts of Bama, inflicting heavy and decisive blow on the terrorists.
One soldier was killed while seven others sustained injuries in the process. Over a dozen of the terrorists died in the assault while scores fled with wounds. A statement from Defence headquarters signed by Major General Chris Olukolade, Director of defence information noted that “Many more of the attacking terrorists also died as the air force patrol went after the fleeing ones.
“Pursuit is still ongoing while calm has been restored and troops maintain firm control of Bama town. “A Hilux vehicle as well as other equipment and some weapons were captured from the attackers. “One soldier died while 7 were wounded while repelling the attack. “They have been evacuated from the combat area by air and are already receiving medical attention.
“With most of the towns slated to be cleared of terrorists already covered, the campaign to rid rest of the communities of them is continuing with air and land operations now stepped up in the remaining designated locations in the mission area. Cordon and search of cleared communities are also ongoing with some discoveries of weapons and vestiges of atrocities committed by the terrorists while they held sway in some locations”.