July 3, 2020

It is not our brief to expose Boko Haram sponsors — Army

Nigerian soldiers

Nigerian soldiers

Explains why Sambisa forest can’t be wiped out

By Kingsley Omonobi – Abuja

THE Military High Command disclosed in Abuja that after five years of fighting against insurgency and armed banditry, it has not been able to arrest or locate the sponsors or financiers of Boko Haram or armed bandits.

Repeatedly, Nigerians have asked where Boko Haram terrorist group or bandits were getting very sophisticated and expensive weaponry like latest models of General Purpose Machine Guns, AK 47 rifles, Anti-Aircraft Guns and several Gun Trucks with which they terrorise the North East and attack communities.

Major General John Enenche, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, in reply to the question said: “We as the ones fighting in the several battlefronts have been neutralising the terrorists and bandits, destroying the logistics and communications facilities and arresting the terrorist’s collaborators. But we have not seen the sponsors.

“We do see those rustling cattle and selling them. This issue about their sponsors or financiers is beyond the military. At the military level, we don’t know their sponsors. If we know, they will be tracked. The National Intelligence Agency, NIA and the Department of State Security, DSS, will trace them.

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“What I will say is that however long it takes, they (sponsors and financiers) will be tracked and arrested”.

On why it is difficult to wipe out the terrorists and other criminal elements from Sambisa Forest after so many years, especially with the air bombardment by the Air Task Force and the artillery bombardment by ground troops, Gen Enenche said though several terrorists enclaves, command centres and ammunition stores have been destroyed with scores killed, you cannot just wipe out Sambisa Forest because people leave there, there are communities inside.

“Yes, the factor of Boko Haram and ISWAP criminals mingling with the people is there. There are collaborators. But a good number of our own people (Nigerians) are there. That is why Sambisa is difficult to wipe out. It becomes genocide and there are consequences.

“Again, anytime the security agencies carry out a major operation in Sambisa forest, neutralising the terrorists, destroying their hideouts, the people run away to escape collateral damage but after some time, they go back to the communities, saying that is their home, where they were born, the home of their fathers.”

Speaking on armed forces operations against criminality across the country, Gen Enenche said: “In the North-East, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in the past two weeks, conducted several operations at various locations, which led to the neutralisation of terrorists, destruction of their equipment and structures as well as recovery of various items.

“Between 18 and 30 June 2020, the Air Task Force of OPLD conducted intensive airstrikes to mark the launching of its subsidiary Operation Long Reach along the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State following concerted Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions.

“The air operations led to the destruction of a BHT tactical command centre housing some of their high-value leaders and neutralized several of their fighters at Garin Maloma and Yuwe villages. Additionally, airstrikes conducted at Buka Korege, Bula Bello, Ngoske, Tongule, Bukar Meram and Warshale Villages led to the destruction of several BHT locations and gun trucks while scores of fighters were effectively neutralized.”

“Troops of the Army Super Camp 17 at Cross Kauwa in Kukawa Local Government Area and troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed at Response Area Aulari in Bama Local Government Area, both in Borno State, successfully repelled BHT/ISWAP’s attacks on 24 and 25 June 2020, respectively.

“The gallant troops responded to the terrorists’ attacks with superior firepower, thereby killing two of them in contact and recovered 2 AK-47 rifles, 2 Hand Grenades and some ammunition as well as two Rocket Propelled Guns and Unexploded Ordnances fired by the terrorists.

“While the Armed Forces of Nigeria reinvigorates and intensifies her operational activities in the theatre in the North East, it has not relented in its non-kinetic operations. These activities are evident in the civil-military cooperation activities provided at various quarters by the Nigerian military, including the continued provision of medical outreach to IDPs by the Military.

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“These activities led to improved civil-military relations, thereby enhancing the provision of information to security agencies, which resulted in the remarkable successes recorded in the recent past in the North East Zone.

“In continuation of aggressive clearance operation in the North-West zone of the country, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji under Operation Accord have continued to record significant successes against the criminal elements. This is in addition to the several air bombardments conducted under the subsidiary Operation Wutan Daji.

“The air bombardments led to the neutralisation of several bandits and their Logistics bases in Doumbourou, Kuyanbana, Bimasa forests as well as Dunya village in Katsina and Zamfara States respectively.

“Also, within the period under review, troops foiled armed bandits attack in Katsina and Zamfara States. Troops successfully killed 12 armed bandits and arrested six suspected bandits’ informers/collaborators across the theatre.

“Similarly, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji under Operation Accord also rescued 29 kidnapped victims in Katsina and Zamfara States. They were handed over to the two-state government. These successes recorded within the period under review have brought about a renewed vigour and determination on the side of the gallant troops in tackling the security challenge in the North West Zone.

“In the North-Central zone, troops of Operations Safe Haven, Thunder Strike, Whirl Stroke and Gama Aiki conducted several ambushes, raids, clearance patrols and air operations at various locations within the zone which resulted in tremendous successes within the period under review.

“Notably, troops neutralised four bandits affiliated to wanted militia leader “Gana” at their hideout around Che Jukun village in Donga LGA of Taraba State on 29 June 2020. Troops had also earlier arrested six of his key lieutenants at Shakpev village under Tiir and Yoyoo council ward of Katsina-Ala LGA of Benue state on 25 June 2020, while three kidnappers were also neutralised during an ambush operation along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway on 28 June 2020.

“Additionally, the Air Component of the subsidiary Operation Gama Aiki neutralised several bandits and arrested two other fleeing bandits who happened to be foreigners, during intensive airstrikes at Kasuwan Ango Community in Mariga LGA of Niger State. The airstrikes were conducted in the night of 28 and early hours of 29 June 2020.

“Furthermore, troops of Operation Safe Haven recovered a total of 505 rustled cattle in Plateau State between 24 and 29 June 2020 while troops of Operation WHIRL STROKE recovered 4 AK 47 rifles, one AK 47 magazine, 150 rounds of 7.62 special ammunition, 55 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, 4 locally made rifles, and 5 locally made pistols, amongst other items at Akaa and Mbagyeren villages in Ukum LGA of Benue State on 26 June 2020.

“In the South-South zone of the country, the Maritime Component of Operation Delta Safe recorded tremendous successes with the Nigerian Navy Ship Delta dismantling illegal refining sites.

“These sites were observed to have been reactivated with six ovens, five surface metal storage tanks and five dug out pits laden with about 57,000 litres of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO and 649. 1 barrel of suspected stolen crude oil. These sites are located around Otumara Community in Warri South-West, Burutu and Bomadi LGAs of Delta State.

“Troops also arrested two suspects. The suspects have been handed over to the Nigeria Police for further investigation and prosecution.

“Similarly, subsidiary Operation Calm Waters and Operation Swift Response, OSR, recorded remarkable successes including the seizure of 135 bags of 50 kg foreign parboiled rice as well as the arrest of boats involved in smuggling activities amongst others.

“These operations were conducted based on credible intelligence with the combined teams of OSR and Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, strike force. These successes recorded have drastically reduced the smuggling of contrabands into the country, especially from the South-South axis.

“The Joint Operation with the NCS proved a worthy partner in the ongoing border drill. The Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue to partner with other security agencies in sustaining the current gains against criminal elements.

“Overall, the Military High Command commends all the gallant troops of the Armed Forces and personnel of other security agencies involved in various operations across the country for their commitment and professionalism.

“Troops are further encouraged to remain resolute and decisive in curtailing the activities of terrorists, armed bandits and other criminals across the country. The High Command of the Armed Forces, also reassures the general public of its commitment to securing the country for all human activities to strive.

“Members of the general public are, as always, enjoined to continue providing timely information on the activities of criminals in their various localities to the nearest military and other security agencies location for prompt and effective action.”