This Day (Lagos)

7 December 2013

Nigeria: Airforce Base Attack - Military Probes Possible 'Moles' Role

Military authorities are currently investigating the possibility of moles within its ranks who may have aided the recent deadly attack on the 79 Composite Group of the Nigerian Air Force in Maiduguri, by suspected members of Boko Haram sect.

Also Friday, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, while speaking in Lagos said he would not rule out the possibility of the attack being an insider's job.

A military source disclosed to THISDAY that there was an expansive investigation by different structures and units of the military services to unravel the suspected collaboration involving some elements in the force.

The source also hinted that some arrests had been made but no conclusive reports have been tabled yet to ascertain the likely culprits.

"We know that there must be some moles for this kind of attack to have been successfully coordinated. As I am talking to you, arrests are being made and investigation is on going," the source said.

The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-General Chris Olukolade, while responding to THISDAY's enquiry, could not confirm if any arrests had been made within the services. Olukolade however said that the Defence Headquarters was addressing the challenges posed by the latest Boko Haram attack in Maiduguri with a view to forestalling any action that could lead to a reversal of the successes recorded in the war against terror.

He said: "When you consider similar conflicts in other parts of the world like Israel or US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the Sri Lankan war, there can be occasional set backs. In this case, the armed forces are doing everything necessary to forestall any future occurrence and as well regain lost grounds.

"This kind of incident only underscores the fact that the reality of terrorism is here and like in other climes mentioned earlier that have experienced it, it does not go away suddenly. That is why it requires collective efforts of all and understanding from the members of the public". Concerning the possibility of moles, the DDI said: "This incident is unfortunate and regrettable. Nothing is being ruled out in the on going effort of the military to get to the root of the matter including any act of sabotage. Nothing will be spared."

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY in Lagos, Badeh said: "I cannot rule out the incident being an insider job 100 per cent, but we are still looking at the situation. We have visited the area and seen and we have reassessed the situation.

"We have put appropriate measures on ground despite our losses. We are government and its resources are more than that of the bad men. So we have replaced what was damaged and we have resumed work."

On arrests, he said many of the insurgents were killed at the spot, adding that the locals who were fed up arrested about five and exerted jungle justice on them.

Speaking on the possibility of a probe, he said as at now, an interim report had been written to the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, who would in turn brief the presidency. He said: "We were supposed to brief the National Assembly yesterday (Wednesday) but it was postponed to Tuesday next week. For the probe, that one is left for the CDS.

"But for us in the Air Force, we had to replace what was destroyed. We can't stop because if we stop, they (terrorists) will think they have an upper hand. We immediately brought in some more gadgets."

When asked how the insurgents penetrated the security area and unleashed mayhem he said: "The security we have on ground was to protect against intruders and petty thieves and not to go to war.

"But somehow, we had to go to Maiduguri to fight a war and I know there was security around the airports but when you keep 20 people on ground for security and you have 300 armed persons coming at you, what do you do?

"The whole of the North-east is a war front and these enemies are not the kind you see and identify. They are often among the populace."

On identifying the masterminds he said, "We know several of them were killed as well as several of their vehicles destroyed. Immediately we heard about the incident, we deployed an airplane and he fought several of them and the army was also on ground."

It would be recalled that three decommissioned military aircrafts as well as two Helicopters were incapacitated during the pre-dawn attack on the Air Force base in Maiduguri this week. Also, two Air Force personnel were wounded while 24 insurgents died during the exchange of fire.

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