- Special Forces locate missing aid workers, arrest informants
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Following the attacks on troops that led to the death of two Colonels and 26 soldiers in Yobe and Borno States last week, the Nigerian Army at the weekend warned Boko Haram fighters to surrender their arms or be crushed.
It said the army was ready to dislodge them if they continued their offensive.
It also warned them to take advantage of the amnesty offered by the federal government in order to rejoin the society or be ready to face the dire consequences.
The army confirmed that insurgents killed a Colonel, captain and three soldiers during an attack on troops between Mainok and Jakana on the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway, Borno State although other military sources said the casualty figure was higher.
The call came as special forces, comprising intelligence operatives located missing humanitarian workers of a non-governmental organisation, Action Against Hunger (AAH), who were declared missing after insurgents ambushed their vehicles in Borno State and arrested some Boko Haram informants.
The Country Director of the organisation, Shashwat Saraf, had said in a statement that the attack on the convoy of the aid workers, which occurred last Thursday on the road to Damasak, Borno State, resulted in the death of one official while two of the drivers and three health workers were abducted.
Speaking in Maiduguri at a reception organised in his honour, following his recent promotion, the General Officer Commanding 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Bulama Biu, said the insurgents still had the opportunity to lay down their arms.
Biu said the 10-year long insurgency had inflicted colossal damage on lives and property and therefore urged the insurgents to avail themselves of the opportunity of the amnesty programme initiated by the federal government under “Operation Safe Corridor.”
“You still have the opportunity to lay down your arms; the time to surrender is now, to enable you rejoin the society,” he said.
Biu commended the troops for their gallantry and sacrifice, saying the military is committed to ending the insurgency and restoring peace to the North-east.
He thanked President Muhammad Buhari for his elevation to the rank of a Major General, as well as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, over the conferment of Chief of Army Staff Award of Excellence on him.
The commander also lauded the Borno State Government, security agencies and other stakeholders for supporting the army in counterinsurgency operations.
The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Benson Akinroluyo, commended Biu for his commitment, effective leadership qualities and professionalism in the fight against insurgency. Akinroluyo described Biu as a man who “commands his troops from the front line and not from the rear.”
Borno State Governor, Umara Zulum, lauded the military over the successes recorded in the counterinsurgency operation.
Represented by his deputy, Alhaji Umar Kadafur, the governor pledged support to the military operations to restore peace in the state.
Shortly after his promotion, Biu had called on the insurgents to celebrate his promotion by laying down their arms.
He had told the insurgents on arrival in Maiduguri to lay down their arms unconditionally.
“The promotion I was told was as a result of all the efforts and successes we recorded in defeating Boko Haram. Our appreciation will, therefore, be incomplete without calling on the remnants of Boko Haram to join in celebrating me by laying down their arms unconditionally as quickly as possible for peace to reign.
“Then, I will have a great sense of fulfillment. But where some of them decide not to do so, I want to assure them that I have returned to Maiduguri more reinvigorated, well energised,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Special Forces have detected the location of the missing humanitarian aid workers of Action Against Hunger abducted last week after insurgents attacked their vehicles.
Intelligence sources said the operation of the Special Forces, comprising military and intelligence operatives, was coordinated by Biu.
Some informants who were divulging information to the terrorists in the area were also arrested.
“The special forces were able to detect the location of the humanitarian aid workers after some arrests were made.
“You may recall that the terrorists had attacked the convoy of the humanitarian workers last Thursday at Damasak, headquarters of the Mobbar Local Government Area on their way to provide life-saving assistance to individuals and families, affected by the humanitarian crisis.
“Unfortunately, the driver, named Kashim Ritam, was killed while his vehicle with registration No MAG 981 AA was damaged at Zari Village less than 20 kilometres from Damasak town. Some of the missing staff are Grace Taku, Ali Kayiri, Ali A Mustapha, Ali Gaya, Mallam Nuhu, Mohammed Abba Gana,” the source, who spoke anonymously said.