By Joseph Erunke, with agency report
REPORTS emerged yesterday that at least 30 soldiers were killed during a battle with suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State.
But the report carried by an international news agency, Agence France Presse, AFP, has been countered by the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole.
The report had claimed that troops deployed in Zari town, Guzamali Local Government Area of the state, came under attack on Thursday, leading to the ugly development.
The media report, which quoted military sources, read:”At least 30 Nigerian soldiers were killed in combat with Boko Haram jihadists who overran a military base in the northeast near the border with Niger.
“Scores of jihadists in trucks stormed the base at Zari village, in northern Borno State, late Thursday, and briefly seized it after a fierce battle in which 30 soldiers were killed.
Reacting to the report in a telephone interview, spokesman for Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, while confirming the attack, denied that the Army suffered casualties.
According Colonel Nwachukwu, contrary to the report, several of the terrorists were killed by the military troops just as he said the terrorists’ equipment were captured.
Hear him: “That information is not correct. It’s true that we had an encounter with Boko Haram at a location called Zari. The Boko Haram came to attack that community, and our troops deployed few kilometres away from the location, countered the attack.
“The ground troops were supported by the Air Task Force, and several Boko Haram Terrorists were killed, and we also destroyed many of their equipment, weapons.
“On our side, I’m yet to receive casualty figure on my desk, if there was any. So, I cannot confirm that we had (any) and I think it’s very untrue for anyone to (say we had that casualty figure).”
He said a statement was earlier issued by the command to the effect.
The statement, which was signed by the DAPR, had read: “Troops… have successfully routed Boko Haram insurgents in an encounter that ensued yesterday (Thursday) evening at Zari village in Guzamali Local Government Area of Borno state.
“The insurgents were on rampage to loot the community and extort money from villagers but met with a fierce resistance by the troops who were supported by the Air Task Force.
“Several members of the Boko Haram fighters were neutralized and weapons destroyed during the encounter.
“Zari village and the surrounding communities have been stabilized and normalcy restored. The troops have also been reinforced to conduct more robust fighting patrol in the general area.
“The people of Guzamali and Mobar communities and indeed the entire good people of Borno State are urged to remain calm, resilient and supportive of Operation Lafiya Dole, as the troops relentlessly fight terrorism and insurgency in the North East.”
It was gathered that the same location had come under attack just recently.
“The attack took place on Thursday, at Zari in Damasak. That was the same location that some people were dislodged; that was the place that some of them ran to.
“It’s elements of 2 Division Nigerian Army that went for this Operation Last Hold. They were deployed in Zari, Damasak,” a source said.