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The convoy of the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, was Saturday ambushed by suspected Boko Haram terrorists at Faljari village between Mafa and Dikwa, during the Army Chief’s visit to Borno State, THISDAY gathered.
The attack, which left one soldier and 10 terrorists dead, occurred while Buratai was on a morale-boosting visit to the troops in the insurgent-threatened areas of Mafa, Dikwa and Logomani.
The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, confirmed the failed terrorist ambush in a statement. The statement, however, did not specifically used the word convoy, it said ‘leading column.’ He said: “The terrorists encountered an overwhelming fire power from the troops in which 10 of them were killed”, while five others were captured.
Usman also quoted the CoAS as commending the troops at 112 Task Force Battalion location in Mafa and enjoined them to continue to be hardworking and dedicated.
“During the encounter, sadly, we lost a soldier, while an officer and four soldiers sustained gunshot wounds”, he said.
The DAPR also disclosed that the arrested terrorists were being interrogated, while the remains of the ‘gallant soldier’ and the wounded soldiers were evacuated back to Maiduguri.
He also gave assurance that the wounded soldiers were stable and responding to treatment at 7 Division Hospital and Medical Services.
“At Dikwa, Usman said the CoAS interacted with a mammoth crowd of internally displaced persons where he assured them of their safety.
“Thereafter, he addressed some elements of 112 Battalion and told them that the Boko Haram terrorists should not have any freedom of action or movement within their area of responsibility. At Logomani, where troops of 7 Division Strike Group were refitting, he informed them that Nigerians were very proud of them”, he stated.
The Army Spokesman recalled that the unit recaptured Dikwa and was now heading to the next objective. According to him, Buratai who delivered President Muhammadu Buhari’s goodwill message also said that he was adequately briefed by the GOC 7 Div about their problem.
One interesting aspect of the visit, Usman noted, was that Nigerian Air Force led by the Chief of Air Staff (CoAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, gave air cover and conducted armed air reconnaissance on the general area.
“While the IDPs were excited with presence of the CoAS, troops at various locations were equally in high spirit and good to go.
“The troops indicated their readiness to carry out assigned tasks,” he said. It also emerged yesterday that Boko Haram militants are strengthening ties with the Islamic State (IS) group as reports have shown that Nigerian militants are fighting in Libya, while recent arrests in Lebanon and India and the blocking of thousands of suspected extremists from leaving Nigeria are other strong indications of the reinforcement of ties with the IS.
Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to IS in March and in June was declared its West African province.
A report in Associated Press quoting Nigeria analyst, Jacob Zenn, in The Sentinel magazine of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, stated that an estimated 80 to 200 Boko Haram fighters were in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Zenn noted that Algerian security forces believed Boko Haram fighters had joined other militants in northern Niger.
“The openness of migration routes from Nigeria through eastern Niger to Libya makes travel … fairly straightforward, and the Islamic State can easily afford to pay smugglers to carry militants (and weapons) along that route,” wrote Zenn. Further evidence of Boko Haram’s links with IS was the arrest on August 15 by Lebanese authorities of hardline IS cleric Ahmad al-Assir at Beirut airport. He was said to have planned to fly to Nigeria on a forged Palestinian passport with a valid Nigerian visa.
The Nigeria Immigration Service reported barring 23,472 people from leaving the country between January 2014 and March 2015.
“There have been reports in recent times of some Nigerians departing to join terrorist groups especially in the Middle East and North Africa,” said PR Nigeria, which publishes government news.
Two Nigerians studying in India were arrested August 7 as they tried to cross illegally into Pakistan, planning to join IS in Iraq, it said.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in the insurgency since President Muhammad Buhari was elected in March and pledged to halt the 6-year-old Islamic uprising blamed for the deaths of some 20,000.
Meanwhile, in an effort to bring an end to cattle rustling and other security challenges in dreaded Kamuku and Kuyanbana Forests, governors of states in the North-west zone and Niger met again on Saturday in Kaduna to review security strategies.
Governors of the five states, bordering the forest, namely Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara states had earlier met in June which led to the establishment of a joint security operation against armed robbery and cattle rustling in the dreaded Kamuku Forest.
The effort had led to the recovery of over 3000 cows while several arrests were made by the joint security task force made up of the military, police and civil defence corps.
Saturday’s meeting which reviewed the operations of the joint task force was said to have been attended by the governors and their security chiefs.
Although Kano and Sokoto states are not bordering the forest, the governors of the two states, were said to have joined the meeting in order to avoid a spillover of security challenges in their states when the criminals are flushed out of the forest.
In an interview with newsmen after the meeting which was held behind closed door and which lasted for about three hours, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State said the governors would leave no stone unturned to ensure maximum security in their domains.
He commended the collaborative approach adopted, especially by the states surrounding Kamuku and Kuyanbana forests, noting that the effort was yielding positive results.
“We have resolved to support the security agencies both material, financially and morally to improve security situation and ensure that there is no hideout for criminals in the North-west sub-region.
“The collaboration between the states and Federal Government had been very helpful. So, we just sat to review the way forward and how to bring about peaceful coexistence in our region.
“With reports reaching us so far from the security operatives, we are satisfied that the operation is successful and moving smoothly. And we are hopeful that in no distance future, peace will return to the region.
“Initially, it was only five states of Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and Kebbi but today other states like Sokoto and Kano have decided to join hands with the movement to ensure that no hideout for the criminals or terrorists.
“So far, we have made lot of arrests and recovery of property belonging to innocent persons and were returned back to their owners. But it is still ongoing and we will brief you adequately at the end of the operations on the successes recorded.
“We are calling on the people to cooperate and support us by making available necessary information and by reporting suspicious movement around their neighbourhood to security operatives to ensure they are apprehended” the governor said.