DOZENS of soldiers taking part in the counter-terrorism operation in the North East have been killed in series of attacks recently by Boko Haram insurgents, according to several reports, but the Nigerian Army is yet to speak on the casualties.
Ahmad Salkida, a journalist who has extensive knowledge of the Boko Haram and also has sources among the insurgents, was the first to report that Mainok, a town close to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was attacked on Saturday, November 17.
He tweeted the next day, November 18, that “
ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) attacked Mainok and was reported to have ambushed troops that were ordered to reinforce from Jakanna”.
“Yesterday’s attack on troops in Mainok was barely 24hrs after Kekeno was attacked. These attacks still continue even after the raining season, is confusing,” Salkida added.
ISWAP is the faction of Boko Haram that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The faction is headed by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, son of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram.
On November 20, Salkida, quoting an unnamed military source, reported that ISWAP attacked a military facility in Maitile the previous day, “killing scores among them, a senior officer, (and also) carting away arms and ammunition”.
Salkida’s report was corroborated by DailyTrust newspaper. The paper quoted anonymous military sources as saying that the insurgents were able to outnumber and overpower the soldiers at the military base, leaving a large number of casualties.
“It was a sad day for us at the theatre, the terrorists took the advantage of the bad terrain and attacked us, it was really bad on the side of the troops.” the source was quoted as saying.
On Thursday Premium Times published the story of one of the soldiers who was said to have escaped the attacks. According to the soldier, over 70 soldiers were killed by Boko Haram during on that day. The soldier also said that the insurgents had issued a threat letter that it would attack four strategic military posts in Borno State. He also added that the insurgents made away with about seven gun trucks belonging to the army, alongside other arms and ammunition.
“We are being killed on a daily basis as if our lives don’t matter. Of course as soldiers we signed to lay down our lives in defence of this country, but certainly not in the manner we are being presented for slaughter without dignity. A soldier should die fighting and not being chased or overpowered,” Premium Times quoted the soldier as saying.
“Our morale has been dampened so badly – not only because we are not given our due allowances; but for the fact that we have been outgunned by the Boko Haram.
“As I am talking to you now, we have about 70 corpses of soldiers littering the battleground in Metele and when we went to evacuate them on Monday, the Boko Haram gunmen came out in large numbers from all angles – so we had to abandon the corpses after just picking five of them. We left most of the corpses there as I am talking to you now.”
A similar report by Reuters News Agency put the number of soldiers killed in the attacks at 100, adding that the soldiers who survived said the number could be higher.
Army authorities remain silent
However, despite the several reports, authorities of the Nigerian army are yet to issue an official statement on the development, more than five days after.
On its Twitter handle on Friday, the army was either tweeting about the ongoing Nigerian Army Law Seminar 2018, holding in Abuja, or the ongoing Guards Brigade Inter Unit obstacle race competition, also in Abuja. On Thursday, the army tweeted about a “show of force” which was conducted by troops of 22 Brigade deployed in operation LAFIA DOLE, in conjunction with other security agencies in the Dikwa emirate of Borno State.
The attacks by Boko Haram and the resultant loss of lives on the part of soldiers come barely three weeks after the Nigerian Army announced on Twitter that it has taken delivery of “a shipment of various ammunition to further enhance its operational capabilities and combat efficiency”.
The Nigerian Senate, in its plenary session on Thursday, observed a moment of silence, after which it adjourned sitting for the day, as a mark of respect for the deceased soldiers (40 of them according to the lawmakers).