Omololu Ogunmade and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari last night expressed “profound grief and sorrow’’ over the killing of soldiers in an ambush by terrorists in Gorgi Village, Borno State.
Forty-seven soldiers were, according to the Defence Headquarters, yesterday killed by Boko Haram in an ambush attack in Gorgi Allargano forest in Borno State.
The president, according to a statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said “sacrifices of our gallant patriots cannot be quantified, and their sacrifices cannot go in vain.’’
The statement said the president, who commiserated with their families and those who sustained injuries, added that the death of every soldier causes deep pains because he knows what it means to be a soldier.
According to the statement, the president fully understands the extreme risks associated with the profession, noting that “despite the tragedies and incidents, we cannot allow anarchists and mass murderers to hold the country hostage.’’
It added that the president appealed to the military “not to allow the incident to affect their morale,” assuring them that his administration would continue to motivate and equip them adequately in order to cope with the complex challenges of unconventional warfare.
Shehu said the Nigerian Army had dispatched a team to assess the situation and report back to the government.
Military Pounds Boko Haram after Losing 47 Soldiers
The military had yesterday rained bombs on Boko Haram’s hideouts in Borno State in reprisal against the killing of 47 soldiers in an ambush on Monday.
Although the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday confirmed 47 soldiers killed and 15 others wounded in the ambush by Boko Haram at Gorgi in Allargano forest in Borno State, other sources put the death toll at 70.
But a day after the ambush, fighter jets of the Air Task Force under the Operation Lafiya Dole launched airstrikes on the terrorists’ locations.
However, the Coordinator of the Defence Media Operations, Maj- Gen. John Enenche, told journalists in Abuja that the 47 soldiers were not killed in direct combat with the terrorists.
He said the terrorists ambushed the military vehicle conveying logistics and artillery, which included bombs and other weapons and shot at it.
According to him, the shooting resulted in an explosion that killed the soldiers and the insurgents that mounted the ambush.
He said: “As you know, we are in a fluid conflict situation and our gallant troops are out there at the frontlines. Ladies and gentlemen, between 21 and 23 March 2020, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, were on clearance and fighting patrol operation to Gorgi in Borno State, which was successfully done.
“However, during consolidation, they were ambushed by elements of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT). Sadly, we suffered some casualties in the unfortunate attack. Forty-seven soldiers were killed and 15 soldiers were wounded.”
Eneche added that following the ambush, fighter jets were scrambled and the fleeing insurgents that survived the explosion were neutralised.
“Accordingly, air assets, including Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform and fighter jets were immediately scrambled to provide close air support to the troops. While the ISR platform provided situational awareness to the troops, the fighter jets engaged the BHTs, immobilising a gun truck and neutralising some of the terrorists. Some others, who attempted to beat a hasty retreat, were mopped up by the jets in follow-on attacks.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria, in furtherance of the objective of restoring peace and security in the Northeast will continue to sustain the offensive against the enemies of our nation,” he stated.
Enenche explained that the names and identities of the deceased soldiers were being collated while the military sympathised with the families of the victims.
“The Defence Headquarters commiserate with the families of our fallen gallant heroes who paid the supreme price in the course of defending our fatherland.
“We assure Nigerians that the armed forces and other security agencies in furtherance of the objective of restoring peace and security in the North-east and other parts of the country will continue to sustain the offensive against the enemies of our nation,” he said.