Maiduguri — No fewer than 52 members of the dreaded Boko Haram group have been killed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the last 10 days, spokesman of the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, said yesterday in Maiduguri at a media briefing.
Few hours after the departure of President Goodluck Jonathan, who was on a two-day visit to the volatile Borno and Yobe States, the JTF said its men ambushed a hideout of suspected Boko Haram members in Maiduguri where they killed 20 of them and recovered sophisticated weapons, including guns that had the capacity to bring down aircraft.
Two technical vehicles with mounted Anti-Aircraft Stands were recovered at the suspected Boko Haram building in Jajeri suburb.
Two soldiers were killed. Three others sustained injuries when the JTF operatives met stiff resistance while approaching the den of the insurgents, the spokesman said.
Though the JTF could only account for 52 deaths, military sources said more than 50 suspected members of the Boko Haram were killed in last weekend's operations.
There are fears in Maiduguri that the insurgents had perfected plans to strike during the President's visit.
It could be recalled that many helicopters hovered the sky throughout the visit of the president. Residents were locked indoors for over 48 hours, a development that left the streets empty.
The spokesman of the JTF told newsmen yesterday that contrary to media reports, there were no blasts in Maiduguri throughout the president's visit, pointing out that the endless sound heard across Maiduguri were those of gunshots of browning machine from Armoured Personnel Carrier (APCs) fired by JTF during their altercation with Boko Haram insurgents.
Lt. Col. Sagir said items recovered during last Friday's operation include: 3 Anti Aircraft Guns, 10 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tubes, 3 General Purpose Machine Guns, 17 AK47 Rifles, 3 G3 Rifles, 1 Pistol (Lama), 20 RPG Bombs, 12 RPG Chargers, 1x 36 Hand Held Grenade.
Others are: 1 Teargas Rifle, 33 AK 47 Magazines, 11 FN Magazines, 3 G3 Magazines, 11,068 Assorted Ammunitions, 2 Technical Vehicles with mounted Anti Aircraft Stands, 1 Box of weapons cleaning kit, 4 Swords and 2 Knifes, 5 Walking Talkies, 4 VHF Hand Held Sets, 1 Multi Links Router and assorted uniforms and kits.
The JTF spokesman, who explained the activities of the task force in Maiduguri in the last 10 days, said they recorded landmark discoveries, the first of its kind in a very long time.
According to a statement he later issued to newsmen, the spokesman said, "Based on information and intelligence report, series of operations were conducted by the Joint Task Force Operation RESTORE ORDER in the last ten days in Borno State.
"The latest was the one conducted at Bulabulin, Bayan Quarters and Jajeri in Maiduguri metropolis between 3 - 8 pm on Friday, 8 February, 2013. During these operations under the period stated, there was exchange of fire that led to the death of 52 Boko Haram Terrorists including ten commanders of the sect. 70 terrorists were also arrested," he said.
Lt. Col. Sagir said the task force was desirous of restoring peace and order in Borno State but cannot succeed without the cooperation of the people.
"The Task Force wishes to thank members of the public, particularly our moles in the Boko Haram's camp for giving us the information that assisted in the successes so far recorded," he said.
Major Josiah Kallamu, a retired security officer, told Sunday Trust that if there were no proactive feat by the JTF, the weapons recovered last Friday, the state would have been endangered as the weapons had the capacity to destroy the whole of Maiduguri within few hours.
People living along Baga road, a gateway to Jajeri where JTF fought with insurgents said there battle ground has been deserted.
"You cannot see even a chicken there now. No women or children at all...I don't think you will even see chicken there," a resident said.
Another resident said the death figure was much highest than the 52 given by the JTF.
"I am sure close to a hundred have been killed, I'm pretty sure and you cannot rule out that civilians had been caught in crossfire," he said.
Sources at the Teaching Hospital in Maiduguri said security agents rarely took corpses there in the last few weeks.
"This is a full blown war going on in Maiduguri and dumping of corpses by the roadside in the outskirt of the town is becoming the norm.
"Our mortuaries are filled and relatives are scared to come and claim them," the source said.
President Jonathan had last Friday rejected the idea of withdrawing the military from the streets of Maiduguri, a consistent request made by elders in the state.
At a Town Hall meeting that lasted for about three hours before he left Maiduguri, the President said he would never allow any part of the country to be taken over by militants, which he said prompted the deployment of troops.
Meanwhile, an Islamist group Ansaru yesterday claimed to have killed seven foreign hostages abducted from a construction site last month, SITE Intelligence Group said.
"In the communiqué, the group stated that the attempts by the British and Nigerian governments to rescue the hostages, and their alleged arrest and killing of people, forced it to carry out the execution," SITE said.
Police last month said the kidnap victims included four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian. A company official later said the Middle Eastern hostages included two Lebanese and two Syrians.