Nigerian troops suffered another setback on Tuesday in the quest to root out Boko Haram remnants from the North-eastern part of the country, with the reported death of the Commanding Officer of the 114 Task Force Battalion, Lt.-Col. B.U. Umar.
THISDAY was informed that the casualties of Nigerian troops in the latest Boko Haram ambush, which occurred between Pita and Piridang in Borno State, could be well over eight.
Military sources, who could not confirm whether others in the commanding officer’s convoy were killed or survived the attack, said that the unfortunate incident occurred yesterday morning.
“Yes. It is true, as you might have heard. The unfortunate incident happened between Bita and Piridang in Borno State but it is not certain that they all died, as the CO and eight soldiers were fatally wounded,” one of the sources said.
However, another source disclosed that the mine resistant vehicle that had conveyed the officer and his men was said to have detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) when it drove over it.
He said that the commanding officer, who was heading towards Southern Borno, actually survived the explosion, but alighted from the vehicle to inspect the damage, only to come under heavy fire from Boko Haram terrorists who lay in ambush.
“I don’t think he made it, but it’s safe to say that he and his men came under heavy Boko Haram fire that must have increased the number of casualties,” he said.
When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Col. Sani Usman, did not respond to several text messages and calls to his phone.
Umar, who took charge as the commanding officer of 114 Battalion about three weeks ago, is a member of the 48 Regular Course of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA).
His death happened about a week after another Lieutenant Colonel, Muhammed Abu-Ali, and his troops were killed in another ambush by Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian military is said to have intensified its operations in the North-east, opening up multiple battlefronts to dislodge Boko Haram terrorists said to have been scattered in small numbers in several parts of Borno State.
According to sources, “Boko Haram has resorted to classic guerrilla tactics and an asymmetric warfare since losing several territories and being dislodged from the Sambisa forest.
“The challenge also is that our troops cannot be everywhere but we are engaged in serious operations.
“Serious operations are taking place all over the theatre and we want to achieve much without blowing our trumpet and there are heavy casualties.”
Also, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) recently carried out an attack on a Boko Haram location on the outskirts of Malkonori in Northern Borno.
NAF spokesman, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said the latest attack was a follow up to the close air support operation that repelled the insurgents who had attacked ground forces at Kangarwa.
“Survivors among the insurgents had fled to Dogochuku where they were also attacked by NAF fighter aircraft and forced to relocate to Malkonori,” Famuyiwa stated.
He said Nigerian ground forces confirmed that a number of the insurgents were killed and their vehicles destroyed from the latest air strike at Malkonori.