• Troops take over ‘Camp Zero’
• President praises gallant soldiers
• Search for Chibok girls continues
Tobi Soniyi and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The last stronghold of the Boko Haram terrorist sect, Sambisa forest, in Borno State, has finally fallen to the Nigerian troops. The area fell about 1.30pm on Thursday, when the terrorists’ heartland within the forest, also known as “camp zero”, their last and most guarded base, was taken over by the soldiers. It was a great boost to the antiterrorism war.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent a message to the military yesterday, praising them for their gallantry in the capture of the Sambisa terrorist nest. But Buhari said efforts should be intensified to locate and free the remaining Chibok girls still in captivity, even as he prayed God to protect the girls.
Two hundred and seventy six schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, had been kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014, but 57 were said to have escaped. Two of the girls were found and rescued in May, while 21 were released by their captors on October 13. The whereabouts of the remaining 196 remain unknown.
The capture of Sambisa forest followed sustained battles by the military, which recently launched what it called a final onslaught against the insurgents. The Boko Haram insurgents had been holed up in Sambisa forest for many years and used the base for the planning and execution of terror attacks in different parts of the North-east. But in his Yuletide message recently, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Turkur Buratai, told troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, the code-name for the military operation in the North-east, to ensure that the terrorists were completely rooted out of Sambisa forest and other fortresses by the end of the year.
Buhari reiterated the December deadline during a recent meeting of the Panel of Heads of State at the Third Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, in Senegal.
The fall of the Sambisa terrorist nest is a tremendous boost to the military and the Buhari government.
In a message to the military yesterday, Buhari said, “I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest.”
The president commended the resilience of the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in their final attempt to crush the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at “camp zero”, which is located deep inside the Sambisa forest.
”I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the camp fell about 1:35pm on Thursday, December 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide.”
He urged the soldiers to sustain the tempo by pursuing the terrorists and smoking them out of their hideouts, with a view to bringing them to justice.
Buhari called on the citizens to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and the other security agencies by providing useful information that would expose terrorists hiding among the populace.
He also specially congratulated and commended the leadership of the Nigerian Army, in particular, and the Armed Forces, in general, for taking over the forest.
“This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation, not only in the North-east, but the country in general. But we must not let our guards down.
“Once more, congratulations to our troops and all who, in one way or the other, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort. May the Almighty continue to be with you,” the president declared.
In a similar vein, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday commended the Nigerian Armed Forces and Buhari for the defeat of Boko Haram at their final enclave in the Sambisa forest. In a statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said he was delighted by the news of the capture of Sambisa, stressing that it is a great way to end the year.
The senate president stated, “The news of the Nigerian Army defeating Boko Haram in their most dominant stronghold is truly gratifying. This is a gift to all Nigerians as we enter this festive season and round off this year.
“I want to congratulate President Buhari for his leadership, and his dedication to crushing the insurgency in the country. I want to also commend the Nigerian people for believing in our men and women in uniform, and supporting them and their families through prayers and goodwill messages.
“Of course, more work needs to be done to stamp out the remnants of Boko Haram that may be hiding amongst us. However, the downfall of the notorious ‘camp zero’ in Sambisa is something that we must all celebrate at this time.
“As we celebrate this win by our men and women in uniform, we must not forget those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of our dear nation. We must all come together to celebrate their memories as we mark this win.”