Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Soldiers and policemen have cleared the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway off remnants of Boko Haram insurgents, who have terrorised motorists in the last few days.
It was a battle at a high cost as six soldiers lost their lives, but the insurgents were said to have suffered heavy casualties with a large number killed in the confrontation which left several injured.
With the victory on Tuesday, Maiduguri, the Borno State capital has been reconnected to the rest of the country by road, as the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway has perhaps remained the only safest road linking the town to the rest of Nigeria.
A security source revealed that the insurgents were engaged by the troops between Mainok and Benesheikh on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway between 11.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Tuesday.
The source added that the soldiers had engaged the insurgents in a shootout between 1100 a.m. and 11.35 a.m. without either parties given way but recorded heavy casualties on both sides.
According to the source, the tide was however changed when mobile policemen led by the Commander of Borno Rapid Response Squad, CSP Abioye Babalola, and Operation Commander, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Borno State Command, CSP Mohammed Ibrahim, came on the scene.
The source said the two commanders were on patrol of the highway and were able to use their Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) to engage the insurgents and dispel them.
The source, who said the battle dragged on till about 1.00 p.m, said the military and policemen were able to recover two gun truck which the insurgents took from the soldiers.
The source said: “Two gun trucks were recovered, but six soldiers were lost in the gun duel, two corpses of Boko Haram were seen when the crossfire was over, but many corpses were taken away by the insurgents.
“Boko Haram insurgents equally suffered a high degree of injuries; many of them were seen leaping off in flight.”
The source, while claiming that no mobile policeman was lost in the attack, said: “Both the police team of SARS and RRS team were protected and faced the battle as a result of the new APC procured by Inspector General of Police and recently commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari and manpower that were available as a result of newly launched RRS by Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum.”
However, the source said the policemen came under fire from the soldiers after dislodging the terrorists but the officer who led the operation ordered his men not to fire back at the soldiers.
He said things got under control after a reinforcement team of soldiers from Benisheikh, a neighbouring town, got to the location.
TheCable obtained a video showing both sides discussing about the fight against insurgents and the attack from soldiers.
In the video, the Commander of SARS, Mr. Ibrahim Muhammad, narrated how his men tackled the insurgents and the encounter with the aggrieved soldiers.
“When we got there, we saw them (Boko Haram fighters); their identity was not even in doubt. Some were even taking cover beside the wall. We were on them, we were charging in, charging out,” Muhammad said in the video.
“Later, we noticed that they had escaped, the RRS briefed me that while they sighted them (the insurgents) moving in convoy on high speed at the southern part. We were then charging in finally, that was when I noticed that the people on my right hand side were soldiers… As we were coming, they were firing us and I said is it this people again?”
The General Officer Commanding 7 Division of the Army, Maj. Gen. Abdul Kahlifa, interrupted him saying: “We will investigate it.”
He briefly inspected the bullet holes on the APC and added: “No problem, we are going to sort it out. Are we not happy to see you people like this? Are you people not happy to see us like this? That is how it should be. Well done! Well done.”