The Nigerian military authorities have explained the incident that led to the death of Muhammad Abu-Ali, a lieutenant colonel, and two other senior officers who were killed in Boko Haram ambushes.
Abu-Ali has been described by his colleagues as one of the finest officers of the Nigerian Army participating in the clearance operations in the North East.
Leo Irabor, a Major General and the Theatre Commander of ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ – the operations to clear the Boko Haram terrorists from the North East – made this known while addressing a press conference in Maiduguri on Wednesday.
Explaining how Ali died, the army commander said: “Own troops deployed in Mallam Fatori, in the forward location along the Nigeria – Niger on 4 Nov. 2016 at about 2100hrs came under BHT attack.
“The insurgents who had been earlier dislodged by the troops regrouped to reclaim the location but were ruthlessly repelled after a fierce battle that lasted for about 2 hours.
“In the fierce battle, the troops killed 14 insurgents and captured one General Purpose Machine gun, one PKM, 7 AK47 rifles, 57 rounds of 7.62 mm, one hand grenade, 2 Nokia phones and chemical substances for making Improvised Explosive Device.
“Sadly, however, an Officer, Lt. Col. M Abu-Ali and 6 soldiers lost their lives in the combat while 4 other soldiers sustained injuries (one unfortunately died later).
“The rest of the wounded are responding to treatment in own medical facility.”
Irabor also narrated how two other officers lost their lives after clearing an ambush laid for them by the boko haram terrorists on November 15.
He said that the troops were “on patrol to MUBI (when they) encountered an IED explosion along Bitta – Pirang road and thereafter were ambushed by BHT.”
“Troops successfully cleared the ambush after a fight and unfortunately the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. B.U. Umar lost his life on the spot.
“Subsequently, Lt. Muktar also died in the hospital where 8 others soldiers who are wounded in action were receiving treatment. The wounded soldiers have been responding to treatment.”
Irabor also stated that a total of 5,235 persons who were hitherto held captive by the insurgents, have been rescued by troops of operation Lafiya Dole between October and November this year.
He added that the Operation had witnessed some command changes, bringing in officers whose pedigree “speak to their readiness to key into the philosophy for greater effectiveness.”
Irabor narrated how the troops, between October 28 and November 1, conducted clearance operations on insurgents along Golgore, Doska, Ajigin and environs, killing a total of 37 boko haram fighters and recovering a gun truck, several motorcycles and bicycles, military camouflages and large quantity of drugs.
He added that 2 officers and five soldiers were wounded during the encounters, while a member of the civilian vigilante group was killed.
Irabor also disclosed that the troops have commenced an operation to rescue the abducted Chibok School Girls who were kidnapped in 2014.
He said: “Operation RESCUE FINALE commenced on 2 Nov 16. It is the continuation of Operation CRACK DOWN and is aimed at rescuing all the CHIBOK School Girls and other hostages held in SAMBISA Forest.
“Preliminary bombardment of selected targets by own Artillery and Air Component is in progress.
“The subsidiary operations allied to Operation RESCUE FINALE, are ongoing and would be touched subsequently,” he said.
Irabor further stated that the troops had intercepted one Kadiri Umate, who is suspected of providing the terrorists with medical supplies. He was arrested with “35 packs of 500ml Glucose Intravenous Infusion (drip), assorted pain killer drugs, clothes, slippers, insecticide, salt, kola nuts and a bicycle.”
Abdullahi Abur, Another suspected food supplier to the insurgents was arrested on November 4. He allegedly purchases logistics from Benisheik and covertly delivering same to terrorists in Talala and Ajigin general areas of Damboa LGA of Borno State.
The Army Commander informed that the Maritime component of Operation Lafiya Dole had been inducted and they will be deployed at “Naval Outpost BAGA and will later operate around the fringes of Nigerian side of LAKE CHAD.”
Irabo also explained that the recent bombings in Maiduguri “are only indicative of a weakened and defeated BHT” and is “destined to fail totally.”
The army chief urged the general public “to be more alert and security conscious with their environment, especially when a strange face comes around.”
He reiterated that the army “shall continue to work to ensure the safety of lives of every citizen.”
He called on the terrorists to take advantage of the window provided by the military to surrender their weapons, as “failure to do so would be hugely regretted.”