Military Begins Final Offensive against Boko Haram, ISWAP

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Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai

•May force Shekau to negotiate amnesty
•Kills 105 Boko Haram fighters in Yobe

By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Michael Olugbode

The military has begun massive deployment of troops and war equipment in the North-east for a final showdown with Boko Haram and Islamic State for West Africa (ISWAP), THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

THISDAY gathered that the Chief of Defence Staff and head of the military establishment, General Abayomi Olonisakin, has given the final directive to the troops to crush the insurgents in line with an earlier marching order given by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, have since relocated to the North-east to coordinate the military operations in compliance with the directives.

Buratai has vowed to remain in the North-east to coordinate the war until the insurgents are defeated and the head of the terror group, Abubakar Shekau, captured.

THISDAY also gathered from military intelligence sources that the renewed military campaign may force Shekau to surrender and negotiate amnesty for himself and his top commanders.

There were speculations at the weekend that the terror leader had reached out to a Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO) to facilitate an amnesty agreement with the federal government.

But military sources could not confirm the claims.

THISDAY gathered that the military high command was unsettled by the claim of the Chadian President, Idris Deby, that his country has eliminated 80 per cent of the insurgents and called out Nigeria and Niger via an April 22 deadline to occupy territories in the two countries Chadian troops seized from the insurgents.
Deby’s position was said to have created the impression of an alliance between the Nigerian forces and the terrorists, an allegation the Nigerian military has debunked.

Investigation showed that since the Boko Haram’s encounter with the Chadian forces, the terrorist group has not launched any major attack against the Nigerian troops, thus validating the claims by Deby that his forces had disorganised the group.
Before the Chadian forces dislodged the group from their locations, the terrorists’ attacks on the locations of the Nigerian troops were so frequent that the military had to redeploy top commanders involved in the terror war shortly before the Chadian army had a fierce encounter with the group.

The impression of many people in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and birthplace of Boko Haram, is that the Chadian forces had thoroughly weakened the terrorist group and that the Nigerian military should follow up to defeat them.

However, determined to end the war, THISDAY learnt that the Defence Headquarters had ordered a massive deployment of troops and equipment in the North-east.

Multiple military sources confirmed to THISDAY that over 100 battle tanks with an 18-kilometre firing range were deployed in the past two weeks.

The war equipment, it was learnt, were part of the military hardware procured from Chinese arms manufacturing firm, Norinco.

They include 35 main battle tanks, 25 Typhoon MRAPs (mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles), 10 Spartan armoured personnel carriers, 20 Armoured Guard Booths, five armoured mine-clearing vehicles, 50 troop-carrying vehicles and 40 Buffalo vehicles, among others.

Others include VT-4 main battle tanks, SH5 105 mm self-propelled artillery among others.

Apart from the efforts of the land forces, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has also ramped up attacks on insurgents’ locations as part of ongoing operations to destroy the terrorists’ capabilities before the insurgents could deploy them against the land forces and other targets.

THISDAY gathered that the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has also encircled major likely escape routes of Boko Haram commanders into Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Other channels through which they move arms have also been occupied by MNJTF troops.

There were speculations at the weekend that the dragnet spurn around the terrorists, in addition to the Chadian expedition that decimated hundreds of insurgents, have now put pressure on Shekau to allegedly seek amnesty.

Shekau, in a video released last week, had admitted that he lost many fighters during the invasion of his enclave by the Chadian troops but called on his fighters not to be discouraged by the losses.

But unconfirmed report said he had reached out to an unnamed NGO that provides humanitarian services in the North-east to explore a surrender option in return for amnesty.

Responding to a question at a briefing at the weekend on the arrest and trial of 58 terrorists by Chad in contradistinction with Nigeria’s policy of amnesty for repentant terrorists, Coordinator, Directorate of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said it was dependent on the policies of each country.

“If they (Chad) don’t know how to go about amnesty, they should ask. There’s a convention that if your enemy surrenders, you take him as prisoner of war. It’s an international convention”, he said.

Addressing troops in Borno ahead of the final onslaught against the insurgents, Buratai urged them to show commitment in order to end the war.

“We must be committed and fastidious. We must consider and work out the minutest details, factors and all possible outcomes in all our operations,” he stated.

He urged the commanders to focus on the image and integrity of the Nigerian Army.

“We must think out of the box and beyond the box. I charge you all to move out and bring this war to a positive end! Victory is from God alone,” he had said.

Army kills 105 Boko Haram fighters in Yobe

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has said that it killed 105 insurgents in Saturday’s confrontation at Buni Gari village in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State.
Enenche had earlier in a statement issued yesterday said 10 insurgents were killed by the military in the encounter.

But a separate statement issued later by the Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, said a total of 105 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists were killed.

Musa said the Commander Sector 2 OPLD (Operation Lafiya Dole), Brig. Gen. Lawrence Araba, briefed the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, yesterday on the incident.

According to him, Buratai applauded the troops for their gallantry and resilience when he visited the injured troops at the Field Ambulance Logistics Base 3 Damaturu and Special Forces’ School in Buni Yadi.

He stated that the COAS visited two officers that were wounded in action during the Buni Gari encounter and other soldiers already on admission at the medical facility.
He added that Araba told Tukur that the recent success was as a result of an intelligence report which revealed a plan by Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists to attack the village.

“Based on intelligence received about the plan by the terrorists to attack Buni Gari, our troops swiftly intercepted and engaged the criminals in fierce battle that led to the killing of 105 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists as well as the capture of several arms and ammunition from the criminals.

“Initial situation report reported that 10 terrorists were neutralised. However, following exploitation by our troops, a total of 105 Boko Haram/ISWAP criminals are confirmed to have met their waterloo as a result of the encounter,” the statement quoted Araba as telling Buratai.

Items captured from the terrorists included five AK-47 Rifles, three GPMG, one Duska Anti- Aircraft Gun, one PKT Gun, two hand-held radio, while one terrorists’ gun truck was destroyed.