•11 local hunters killed by Boko Haram landmines
•23 women, children rescued in Katsina
By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Troops yesterday ambushed fighters of the Islamic State for African Province (ISWAP) on two Hilux vans mounted with anti-aircraft guns, leading to a gun battle that lasted 30 minutes in Tunkushe, 20 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The fierce encounter came as 11 local hunters were killed by Boko Haram landmines while troops rescued 23 women and children in Katsina State.
The insurgents, wearing military uniforms, were ambushed by troops in Tunkushe.
A military source said the attackers were suspected to be from the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).
“The attempted attack by the terrorists was repelled by the troops of 212 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in a very strategic ambush in a heavy gunfight that lasted for more than 30 minutes.
“While two soldiers were wounded in the encounter, at least three dead bodies of the attackers can be seen here as the troops are still pursuing fleeing members of the group
“Items recovered from the insurgents include; one gun truck mounted with anti-aircraft gun, AK-47 rifle, buffen radio and various types of other ammunition. Several traces of blood were also seen along the route where the remaining insurgents escaped in disarray,” the source told PRNigeria.
Besides, 11 local hunters assisting the military in the battle against the insurgents were killed on Tuesday when a landmine, believed to have been planted on the road by Boko Haram, blew up their vehicle.
The local hunters were pursing suspected Boko Haram that had rustled cows from areas in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, also led to 19 others sustaining varying degrees of injury.
Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, had on the same day equipped local hunters with eight Toyota Hilux vehicles and accessories in order to make them go after Boko Haram.
Both Senator Kashim Shettima, representing Borno Central in the Senate and Hon. Ahmed Satomi representing Jere Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives confirmed the incident yesterday to THISDAY.
Satomi said: “It was sad that seven local hunters were lost to a landmine with 19 others injured.
“Hunters on patrol, after receiving an alert that Boko Haram had carted away some cattle from some villages, decided to pursue them, but unfortunately they hit a landmine in their pursuit.
“On their way after a village called Kayamla in Konduga after Alau Dam, they hit a landmine and their vehicle got broken and they had to call for reinforcement from a nearby unit.
“The reinforcement came with a vehicle loaded with about 20 local hunters, which moved to support the first vehicle and on their way, they hit another landmine which scattered their vehicles killing seven and injuring 19 others.”
One of the survivors, Abubakar Gambo, had told journalists in Maiduguri that they were 19 onboard their patrol truck when they heard a loud bang.
“We were on patrol along Kayamla route when one of the rear tyres of our Toyota Land Cruiser truck exploded.
“We thought it was a common tyre burst, but we later discovered it was a bomb blast,” he said.
He added while they were trying to change the tyre, they spotted some Boko Haram gunmen creeping towards them, which made them to begin to fire in their direction while calling for a backup.
He said the Boko Haram terrorists fled and left some rustled herds of cows behind.
Gambo said: “Our backup team arrived and began to chase after the insurgents who had already gone far into the bush. As they were making their way back, the vehicle ran over a massive bomb that exploded and killed nine of them instantly, while nine others were injured. I saw their vehicle as it was tossed up into the air.”
The Borno state Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Sa’ina Buba, while confirming the incident during the funeral of the seven slain hunters in Maiduguri, said: “We were saddened by the death of these gallant hunters who have sacrificed their lives to protect us.
He said the corpses were evacuated on Tuesday and the injured were taken to the hospital.
Similarly, four soldiers were killed on Monday when their vehicle hit a landmine planted by Boko Haram fighters in Logomani village near the border with Cameroon, two security sources told AFP.
Meanwhile, personnel of Operation Hadarin Daji, yesterday rescued 23 women and children after the troops and helicopter gunships subdued the armed bandits in Wurma village in Kurfi Local Government Area of Katsina State.
A military update issued by the Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO) said following credible information on armed bandits’ activities at Wurma village on December 29, troops, in conjunction with personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, mobilised to the location.
The troops engaged the bandits who had kidnapped some locals and rustled some livestock from Kwayawa village in Safana Local Government Area.
“With superior firepower and support by Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship, the armed bandits were forced to abandon the kidnapped victims.
“Consequently, the troops rescued 18 women and five children as well as recovered 75 rustled livestock. During the encounter, troops also arrested one bandits’ informant named, Mohammed Saleh, along with some arms and ammunition,” he said
The update, signed by the Coordinator of DDMO, Major General John Enenche, said the rescued kidnapped victims were reunited with their families and the recovered livestock handed over to the owners while the arrested bandits’ informant were handed over to appropriate prosecuting agency for further action.