Military Launches ‘Operation Crackdown’ on Sambisa Forest

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  • To clear remnants of terrorists, rescue Chibok girls
  • Army arrests alleged killers of Gen. Shuwa

Senator Iroegbu and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The Nigerian armed forces have in a final onslaught against the Boko Haram, deployed ground and aerial personnel deep inside Sambisa forest to clear the remnants of the terrorists’ enclave and rescue all hostages, including the Chibok girls who were abducted from their school two years ago.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, disclosed this monday while fielding questions from journalists at the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC), Maiduguri, Borno State.

Olonisakin’s disclosure came just as the Nigerian Army announced the arrest of the alleged killers of Major-General Mohammed Shuwa who was assassinated in 2012 by suspected Boko Haram members.

The CDS, who was flanked by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, and Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the special operation, which started five days ago, is code named ‘Operation Crackdown’.

According to him, the visit of the service chiefs and other principal officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, was to appraise the success of the onslaught and address the emergent challenges.

He said: “We are here to reappraise the operation that is ongoing. It started some days ago and we are here to appraise the level of performance of the ongoing operation. This is to actually see how we can address the issues we face in the operation.”

He said the operation was to clear out Sambisa forest, the enclave of the terrorists, adding that the challenges being encountered by troops would be addressed so that the momentum of the operation could be sustained.

Olonisakin explained that the major challenges being encountered by the troops in the area were landmines and the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) deployed by Boko Haram, adding that the problems were being sorted out with a combination of creative techniques and landmine resistant equipment.

“We have the challenge of mines of course, and it’s an issue we have been grappling with since this operation began. We have Counter-IEDs equipment we have deployed and other ingenious solutions that we put in place to ensure that the operation goes as planned,” he said.

Speaking further on the Sambisa operation, the CDS said the major aim was to completely wipe out the Boko Haram enclave.
In addition, he said the operation is five-pronged, one of which is to rescue the Chibok girls and all the Boko Haram abductees.

He said the military was determined to complete the operation of liberating not only the infamous forest and free the girls but to also ensure that every inch of Nigeria’s territory was freed from the terrorists.

“I want Nigerians to know that we are determined to wipe out terrorists from our land and from the Sambisa axis; we are going to make sure that we clear them as soon as possible. The rescue operation is also part of this ‘Operation Crackdown’ and we will like to tell you that there are five simultaneous operations within these latest onslaught.

“So rescue is also part of the operations and anyone that has been abducted will be freed and of course including the Chibok girls. This operation, like I said, is to clear the Sambisa forest, and we will take them one after the other but this is one of a kind that if we clear the terrorists from that area, we get our territories back.”

The CDS, who noted that the military was working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that normalcy returned to the liberated areas, said this was necessary to pave the way for the presidential initiative on the rehabilitation of the North-east to take off.

In a related development, the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Operation Restore Order (ORO) has said it has arrested suspected killers of Major General Shuwa in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The JTF spokesman, Lt-Col. Sagir Musa, who disclosed this in a statement, said the arrest followed series of investigations by the task force.

Shuwa was shot dead by gunmen in front of his house in Gwange, Maiduguri on November 12, 2012.

“Preliminary investigation by the JTF has identified two key suspected Boko Haram terrorists, Mohammed Ibn Saleh and Abdulkareem Ibrahim, as the masterminds of the killing,” Musa said.

The Army also said yesterday that Boko Haram terrorists, escaping the military onslaught have devised ingenious ways of evading being apprehended by the advancing troops by hiding inside fox holes in parts of Borno State.

This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman.

Usman said that in compliance with the military high command’s directive that all villages and towns be cleared of remnants of the terrorists, troops of 22 Brigade Garrison in Operation Lafiya Dole, on Sunday cleared four villages of the Boko Haram insurgents hiding in the area.

According to him, the terrorists hibernating in Cinga, Mallum Maja, Bosuma and Murye villages were armed with dangerous weapons including dane guns, adding that three machetes, a bow with arrows, six motor cycles used by the Boko Haram terrorists to ferry slaughtered cow meat to their hideouts were recovered and burnt.

He listed other items recovered to include a tricycle, four Tiger generators and a solar panel.

“The troops also recovered 300 herds of cattle rustled by the Boko Haram terrorists from Fulani herdsmen and handed over to their rightful owners,” he stated.

Similarly, he said 400 persons held hostage by the terrorists were rescued and set free.
“It is gratifying to state that we have not sustained any casualty in neither troops nor equipment, and troops’ morale remain very high,” he said.