• Capture 3 terrorist kingpins, rescue more hostages
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Despite some hiccups, Nigerian troops have continued their offensive to knock out the Boko Haram terrorists’ last major enclave deep inside the infamous Sambisa forest, Borno State.
Military sources have disclosed to THISDAY that apart from the long-time challenges of landmines, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), a new major challenge in the latest Operation Crackdown, is the terrorist snipers.
“We found out that apart from the fact that most of the areas laid with booby traps, IEDs, the BH have trained snipers that hide in the trees to target our soldiers and officers. Recently, we lost a gunner and an officer from such attacks,” a source said.
The source revealed “that was what the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) hinted when he talked about noticeable challenges and reappraisal of the operations.”
However, the source said, despite that minor setback the troops have advanced deep, hitting the terrorists hard and would soon meet the operational objective.
The CDS, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, while fielding questions from journalists at the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC), Maiduguri, Borno State, last week had said “the armed forces have in a final onslaught against the Boko Haram, deployed ground and aerial forces deep inside Sambisa forest aimed at clearing the remaining terrorist enclaves and rescuing the hostages including the Chibok girls.”
Olonisakin 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 visit of the Service Chiefs and other principal officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, was to appraise the success of the onslaught and as well as address the emerging challenges.
He said: “We are re-appraising the operation that is ongoing. It started some days ago and we are here to appraise the level of performance of that operation. This is to actually see how we can address the issues we face in the operations.
“This operation is to actually clear out Sambisa, which is codenamed ‘Operation Crackdown’. The operation is on course and like I said, it is five days gone now. The issues that are being encountered by the troops can be addressed so that the momentum can be sustained.”
“We have the challenge of mines of course, and it is an issue we have been grappling with since this operation. We have counter-IEDs equipment we have deployed and other ingenious solutions that we put in place to ensure that operations go as planned,” he revealed.
Despite the challenges, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, yesterday, said the troops of 26 and 223, Battalions, Army Headquarters Strike Group and Armed Forces Special Forces have continued offensive operations in furtherance of Operation Crackdown.
The troops, he stated, have cleared remnants of Boko Haram in Izza and Njima general area. However, he said the troops came across and recovered eight abandoned vehicles belonging to Boko Haram terrorists.
“In their area of operations, troops of 121 Task Force Battalion today (yesterday), intercepted 35 civilians comprising six men, seven women, seven male minors and 15 minor females who claimed to be coming from Balaganje village.”
“However, preliminary investigation reveals that they had been living in Balaganje as captives by Boko Haram terrorists who threatened to kill them if they attempt to escape. They are being investigated further,” he stated.
Usman also noted that some Boko Haram terrorists have continued to surrender. According to him, out of 16 male adults that came along with their families to troops from Balazala and Ahamdaga Makaranta villages in the Dure district on Friday, seven of them confessed to be Boko Haram terrorist members.
He however, stated that on proper interrogation, the suspects confirmed to be Boko Haram terrorists with some of them having specialised trade and status.
The DAPR also stated that the “7 Division Garrison, have arrested two suspected Boko Haram terrorists fuel suppliers with two Golf Volkswagen vehicles with registration numbers Borno MAG-112XA and Borno AA739-KBG. They were arrested at NNPC Mega Filling Station, along Damboa Road, Maiduguri at 2.00pm on May 5.”
He said the two suspected Boko Haram terrorists modified the boot of their cars with constructed tanks to take in more fuel for their accomplices hiding in the forests. He also disclosed that one of the reconstructed tanks contained 150 litres of petrol, while the other was empty.
He confirmed that both suspects have been handed over to the Joint Intelligent Centre for further interrogation.
In a related development, Usman said the troops of 28 Task Force Brigade have successfully cleared enclaves of Boko Haram terrorists along Galtha Baba, Galtha Musa, Bulakurma, Shatimari, Chukruk, Bulangaje, and Disa villages.
During the operation, he noted, one terrorist was captured alive and three motorcycles, bags of grains, their flags and uniforms were recovered. He listed other items recovered to include suicide bomber’s hijab, mobile phone and a Dane gun, as well as foodstuffs and cooking utensils.