Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday launched a manhunt for fleeing members of terrorist group, Darul Salam and their collaborators.
This comes as troops of Operation Lafiya Dole killed 16 fighters of Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West Africa (ISWAP) and arrested 38 members of the group and their families even as air strikes killed scores of armed bandits in Kwaimbana Forest in Kaduna State.
Darul Salam and Boko Haram had penultimate week threatened to attack the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa and Kogi states.
The threat had prompted the Nigerian Customs Service to issue a memo, listing the targeted areas and warning personnel to avoid them.
Since the alleged threat, unknown gunmen last week kidnapped 20 residents of FCT while two officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) were killed in another attack in Nasarawa State even as 10 were declared missing.
Following the attack on their camp in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State by troops, 410 members of the group including women and children surrendered while 290 others were later rescued.
Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, Coordinator of Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Major General John Eneche, said military authorities had declared a manhunt for members of Darul Salam and their collaborators.
He said aggressive clearance operations by the military had put the group under pressure even as he insisted that the Darul Salam terrorists group would go into extinction in no distant time.
Fielding questions from newsmen at the weekly update on the operations of Armed Forces of Nigeria in Abuja, Eneche said the military was working aggressively with all stakeholders to put an end to the operations of the group in the northern part of the country.
He said the Defence Headquarters was determined to deploy both kinetic and non-kinetic means to rid the nation of the group and other criminal elements.
He recalled that no fewer than 410 members of the group surrendered to the troops of Operation Whirl Stroke last month during an encounter at Uttu in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in August.
He said the terrorists surrendered following aggressive operations by troops and other security agencies at identified criminals’ enclaves included women and children.
“We are putting pressure on them, as all hands are on deck and we are getting good information and we are tracking them those that are suspected to be collaborators that fence them.
“So that is where we are now and like I always said, it is not always good for me to say this where they are or not, or to tell you that we are sending troops to anywhere, but we are on top of it,” he said.
The coordinator further stated: “the group, I can assure you that in no distant time will go into extinction. We are not assuming at all because it is a group that their own motivation is based on ideology and most thing that is difficult to kill kinetically is ideology.
“So ideology can be defeated by all stakeholders, particularly those that speak to their conscience, that speak and touch their mind.
“All stakeholders are working together, particularly our religious partners in this regards, they are now sensitising the general public to believe in the core religious practices and follow them so that is what we are doing.
“We are not leaving any stone unturned, we are following aggressively getting, every information and we are getting good support”.
Meanwhile, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole eliminated 16 fighters of Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP) and arrested 38 others including their family members in a renewed efforts to end insurgency.
Eneche said troops had recorded appreciable successes within the week, adding that some of the terrorists arrested also included their family members with caches of arms and ammunition recovered.
In another encounter, the air component of Operation Thunder Strike killed several armed bandits in Kwaimbana Forest in Kaduna State while their meeting venue was destroyed.
The Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO) said the air raid was conducted after series of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions led to the identification of the hideout along with a building in the centre of the area which was being used by the armed bandits as meeting venue.
Accordingly, the air component dispatched Nigerian Air Force (NAF) jets and helicopter gunships to attack the location.
“The attack aircraft took turns in engaging the target area, scoring accurate hits which resulted in the damage of the building as well as neutralisation of several bandits,” it said.