Sambisa Forest: Blow-by-blow account of the assault against Boko Haram

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The emergence of Boko Haram in 2009, with base in Maiduguri, Borno State capital and the late Mohammed Yusuf as the leader, has become an issue of serious concern not only to the people of the North-east and Nigeria but also the world at large.

After the killing of Yusuf, his second-in-command, Abubakar Shekau, took over, engaging in the killing of thousands of people including security operatives.

But with the continuous raid of their hideouts in different parts of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa states, the group had to relocate to Sambisa forest and established their camps there. It was from there that they continued to launch massive attacks and captured communities in the affected states.

The first town that the terrorists captured was Damboa in southern Borno in July 2013. Thereafter, more communities were captured and controlled by the insurgents.

boko-haram-destroyedBut with the collaboration of Chad, Niger and Cameroon with Nigeria, the terrorists were given a nose blow with the recapturing of most of the communities taken over by the insurgents and liberating the people from Boko Haram.

Significantly, the battle to route the insurgents in six weeks, as promised by the Federal Government, a situation that led to the shifting of the 2015 general elections, appears to have started yielding results.

One of such efforts was the one put in place by troops from the Joint Multi-National Task Force (JMNTF) to recapture Mubi, Adamawa State and environs from the terrorists.

The troops also stormed Sambisa forest decimating the terrorists.
The conquest is traceable to a number of factors, which hitherto encumbered the operations of the military.

Apart from partnering with Chadian, Camerounian and Nigerien troops in confronting the sect, first is that the Nigerian Army and the Airforce, which didn’t have the requisite weaponry to fight the type of guerilla warfare that was visited on the country by Boko Haram, have become properly equipped with necessary military hardware.

The Airforce was reinvigorated by the Federal Government’s procurement of 40 attack aircraft including helicopters with night vision equipment and capabilities.

Before now, the Boko Haram terrorists, aware of the shortcomings of the military, employed anti-aircraft guns to bring down some Airforce aircraft. The noise level of such aircraft easily gave them away during attack missions but that has been addressed.

Many armoured personnel carriers were also attacked by anti-tank weapons as well as landmines planted on attack routes by Boko Haram.
But with the new acquisitions like mines-counter armoured personnel carriers such as the Cobras, equipped with night vision, and which can operate on any terrain; as well as the High Velocity T55 armoured tanks with mine sweeping capabilities, Boko Haram terrorists now know they can never be a match for the military. They are yet to understand what is hitting them.

On Friday January 30, spokesman for the Defence Headquarters, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the military had captured Michika in Adamawa, after “operational searches for arms or stranded terrorists” and other casualties were concluded by troops.
The statement read in part: “Military operations is ongoing in Michika after troops sacked the terrorists who have been operating in the town and environs.

“The main assault on terrorists’ main positions was concluded as many of them died in the combat. Troops who sustained injuries in the operation are receiving necessary medical attention.
Other troops are continuing the pursuit of those who are on the run from the town”. The statement said that normalcy had been restored in the town that was captured by insurgents last September.

On how Baga and Monguno in Borno State were recaptured, Olukolade, in the statement, said: “Meanwhile, the Nigerian officers in key command positions of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in the North-east sub-region are in the process of accounting for their actions leading to the loss of weapons, men and location in their area of responsibility in the mission area.

“This is a normal military procedure in major operations or after encounters. The essence is to extract and collate relevant information for subsequent missions. It could also lead to or determine appropriate disciplinary action where necessary”.
These successes could be attributed to heavy use of sophisticated weapons and sustained commitment and dedication by troops.

On February 16, troops of 7 Division, Nigeria Army, in a coordinated military operation and spearheaded by “air assaults” cleared Boko Haram terrorists on the shores of Lake Chad.
According to a statement by Olukolade, a number of terrorists as well as truckloads of rice, beans, and other logistics meant for resupply to the insurgents were also captured and recovered at Baga that was captured on January 3.

The statement read in part: “Casualty inflicted and arms recovered as well as other outcome of the operation in Monguno, Marte and other communities already secured will be determined after the ongoing cordon and search in the environs.

“The air and land operation is continuing with aggressive advance towards other designated communities and locations meant to be cleared in the ongoing offensive against the terrorists”.

Mopping up
On February 18, a press statement from the DHQ spokesman stated that mopping up operation of some of the communities where Terrorists incurred heavy casualty in the two days of military operation to clear 11 communities was ongoing was on-going.

Over 300 terrorists were killed while a few were captured, the statement added. Several weapons and equipment were also captured and some destroyed.

The statement went on: “It has been confirmed that five different types of armoured fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun, about 50 cases of packed bombs and eight different types of machine guns, five rocket propelled grenade, 49 boxes of various types and calibres of ammunition as well as 300 motorcycles destroyed in the fighting. A total of six Hilux vehicles including those mounted with anti-aircraft guns were also destroyed. However, two soldiers lost their lives while 10 others were wounded in the course of the operation.

“The cordon and search operation is continuing along with aggressive patrols by troops who are now dominating the cleared communities such as Monguno, Gabchari, Abba Jabari, Zuntur, Gajigana, Gajiram, Damakar, Kumaliwa, Bosso Wanti, Jeram and Kabrisungul. The various phases of the highly coordinated air and land operation is also ongoing in the designated theatres being handled by contingents involved in the renewed counter terrorism campaign in and outside Nigeria”.

On February 19, hundreds of Chadian troops, battling Boko Haram militants to retake Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State,made a headway, killing 117 terrorists with the arrest of the Amir (Commander) of the sect.

Dikwa, the headquarters of old Kanem Bornu Empire, was taken over by Boko Haram some months ago, forcing the first class monarch, Alhaji Abba For Masts II, and thousands of his subjects to take refuge in Maiduguri.

A source stated that the recapture of Dikwa took place at about 7am on Thursday after Chadian troops cleared Gamboru, Ngala, Kala Balge and several villages of Boko Haram insurgents, and proceeded/stormed Dikwa, about 100 kilometers north-east of Maiduguri.

Palace arrest
He added that the raid, which comprised of military air strikes with a back up by ground troops, inflicted severe casualties on the terrorists which led to the recapture of the town.

The source also revealed that during the encounter, two Chadian soldiers lost their lives, while the Amir (Commander) of the sect was arrested at the palace of the Shehu of Dikwa where the troops suspected was turned as the base/headquarters of the insurgents.

“The terrorists had established themselves in Dikwa after taking over many buildings including the Shehu’s palace, local government secretariat as well as the official and private residences of prominent people”, he said.

Also, reports monitored on BBC Hausa Service in Maiduguri, on Thursday, revealed that “no fewer than 117 insurgents and two Chadian soldiers were killed after reclaiming Dikwa by troops, and that the town is totally under the control of Chadian troops, while the sect’s Commander (Amir) have been arrested”.

Same day, Olukolade said”, “A concerted air campaign by the Nigerian Air Force is ongoing in furtherance of the mission to clear terrorists from all their enclaves. The air strikes, which today targeted the training camps and logistics dumps of the terrorists in Sambisa forest and parts of Gwoza, have been highly successful as it achieved the aims with required precision. The death of a large number of terrorists has been recorded while many others are scampering all over the forest and out of the struck bases.

Details of casualty will be determined in subsequent phases of the operation.
“Meanwhile, the strikes continue in other locations of the theatre heralding the advance of troops and other elements of the mission”.

Meanwhile, following the successful onslaught against the Boko Haram militants around Gwoza axis, which shares border with Sambisa forest and Askira Uba council area of Borno, hundreds of suspected members of the sect, who escaped, reportedly invaded Askira Uba, shooting residents, burning homes and public buildings, and leaving scores of people dead.

Askira Uba is south and about 220km drive from Maiduguri. It shares border with Sambisa forest from the north. It had witnessed series of terrorists attacks since last year which led to the displacement of thousands of residents before some fleeing residents took liver and resettled in the troubled town.

Sources said the terrorists, armed with AK47 rifles, improvised explosive devices, petrol bombs, and riding in Toyota Hilux vehicles, stormed the town at about 7:35pm and wreaked havoc with no confrontation as security operatives had vacated.

Discordant tunes in camps
Reacting to the recapture of the communities by troops and the bombings of Sambisa forest, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Maiduguri, Mallam Yakubu Usman Jalo, in an interview, applauded the military, especially the JMNTF for a job well done in clearing the terrorists from their hideouts, noting that he was optimistic that most of the closed roads linking Maiduguri will be reopened soon for motorists.

Some internally displaced persons, taking refuge at different camps in Maiduguri, also expressed satisfaction with the military conquest but insisted they would rather stay in the camps than to go back to their communities ravaged by insurgents after capturing them and had been under Boko Haram control for many months, while others indicated interest in going back to pick up their pieces and begin new lives”.

Mallam abba umar baga, one of the inmates at the camp at teachers village, maiduguri, said he was eager to go back home with his family if security operatives will be deployed permanently to the area as, according to him, he was tired of life at the camp, while mallam audu bako, who claimed to be a village head in kukawa, said that even if baga town and environs had been recaptured, he preferred staying in maiduguri than to go back and face another encounter with the sect..

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