By Iro Dan Fulani
Many soldiers are feared dead as Nigerian troops, mostly from the 213 Battalion’s Operation Task Force Mike and 234 Battalion based in Mubi, Adamawa State, attempted to retake Gwoza, Borno State, from Boko Haram insurgents over the weekend.
Casualties were recorded on the two sides as dozens of the insurgents reportedly repelled the soldiers, pursuing them even after they beat a retreat, in the process capturing a Nigerian Army armoured tank.
The defeat of Nigerian soldiers puts Gwoza town firmly in the hands of the militants several days after they first invaded the town, killing over 100 civilians and several soldiers.
The soldiers were reported to have been led into the battle by lieutenant colonel from the 234 Battalion, formerly Special Operations Battalion, SOB, but they ran into stiff resistance from the militants as they advanced on Gwoza from the Madagali ,a security source who cannot be named said.
‘’The soldiers retreated but the militants set off in hot pursuit, chased them and snatched one of their tanks as well as the driver of the tank. They then called the soldier’s wife and informed her that her husband was in captivity,’’said the source.
‘’We are expecting the corpses of about five gallant soldiers that were killed during the encountered to arrive here today (Saturday),’’ the source added.
Some local sources in Madagali said that following the encounter, some Hilux pick up vans were used to bring back to Mubi several wounded and dead soldiers.
It is the second time in 24 hours that Nigerians soldiers were defeated by Boko Haram in an attempt to retake Gwoza. The army had recently retaken Damoboa, over two weeks after Boko Haram overran the town and planted its flag there.
Military sources in Abuja said that following the attack, the lieutenant colonel who led the operation is still missing and that about three military alpha jets have been deployed to the area to assist in the rescue of soldiers who might be trapped in mountains surrounding Gwoza.
On Saturday, the military said it had recaptured Gwoza and issued photographs of troops marching to tue town. Apparently, the troops met with more resistance than they bargained for.
Efforts to reach the Defense spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade proved abortive as his phones were switched –off .