There were reports of intensive fighting Sunday between the Nigerian security forces and suspected members of Boko Haram Islamic insurgents at Alafa Village, a strategic town close to Bama, Borno State where an attack took place on a military barracks two weeks ago.
A source within the military disclosed to THISDAY last night that the military engaged the insurgents who swarmed the village in large numbers early yesterday morning with sophisticated weapons and armoury, including armoured personnel carriers (APC), mounted with anti-aircraft guns, after being dislodged from Bama and other towns in which they previously launched failed attacks.
According to the source, the insurgents who had some foreign assistance, were successfully repelled by the Nigerian military, which was supported from the air following the deployment of Alfa Air Force jets from Adamawa State.
The source said: "Those guys (insurgents) entered Alafa village Sunday morning, but were caught in a surprise military attack and air bombardment.
"The Boko Haram men, many of them came with APCs mounted with sophisticated anti-aircraft guns. However, Alfa jets from Adamawa arrived to support the ground forces. "What we are witnessing now is that the terrorists have acquired more sophisticated weapons, as they are no longer using riffles but anti-aircraft guns.
"However, special forces have also been deployed from different parts of the country to Borno for some surgical and highly specialised operations."
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who confirmed the raging battle, said it was part of the ongoing offensive against the insurgents who within this month had attacked some military locations including Bama Barracks and the Nigerian Air Force Base, Maiduguri.
According to Olukolade, the fighting was in consolidation of the success recorded against the insurgents who had tried to sieze military barracks without success.
He said: "There was intensive fighting yesterday but initiated by our own forces in ground and air operations on the terrorist location spotted at Alafa about 21 kilometres from Bama. It is part of ongoing efforts in search of the terrorists as guided by intelligence.
"The operation was able to inflict vital heavy casualties on the insurgents in that location. Necessary air and land bombardments are continuing in similar locations." The DDI also confirmed that specially trained forces had been injected into the mission in the North-east.
He also clarified that the latest posting and redeployment of senior officers was meant to achieve the desired targets of operations in the North-east and other areas of the country that are facing internal insurrections.
"It is meant to re-invigorate the mission as directed from the strategic level at DHQ," he said. Meanwhile, Abubakar Shekau, the Islamic extremist leader, has claimed that his Boko Haram terrorist group is under instruction from Allah, to kill, decapitate and even mutilate their victims.
He said this in a video he released last Saturday, and sent via email to a select number of journalists.
In the video, he also claimed responsibility for the December 20 attack on a tank battalion barracks in Bama, Borno State.
Shekau, who has a $7.3 million bounty on his head, said in the video that his men, from the al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram, would continue to attack locations within Nigeria and warned about attacks on Christians during the yuletide holidays in December, and forbade them from going to churches.
However, there were no attacks on Christians or churches during the Christmas break. Five churches were bombed on Christmas Day 2011 and dozens of people were killed. Revelling in the attack on Bama barracks, Shekau said: "This is to show our Muslim brethren that victory comes from Allah. This is just a tip of the iceberg regarding the booty Allah has blessed us with, the booty which took our brothers day and night to cart away."
He continued: "Our fighters stormed Bama (military) barracks. Allah threw them (soldiers) into confusion through some servants of Allah who dedicated themselves to Allah. Allah finished them.
"They bragged, they said whatever pleased them to the extent of claiming they have cleansed Bama, now that they have sticks-wielding vigilantes. Even Jonathan praised them, saying Bama are (sic) steadfast.
"Had Allah allowed us to eat them, we would have eaten them but we are not cannibals because we are not spirits or animals. As for killing, we will kill (for) Allah, if he says we should decapitate, we should amputate the limbs, we should mutilate."
He further claimed responsibility for attacks on Damaturu, Maiduguri and later Bama, calling them victories from Allah. He said: "We were amazed by the victory in Damaturu, then a greater victory was achieved in Maiduguri and now Bama operation is better than Maiduguri. And tomorrow we will go to... "
Witnesses of the Bama attack recounted that the insurgents put soldiers to flight and set the complex ablaze before they were driven off by a jetfighter.
Shekau went on to scoff at the bounties placed on his head: "What is N50 million ($7.3 million)? Do you know what we are doing? Your armoured tank is worth more than N50 million and we burnt it. Haven't we burnt your aircraft? What is N50 million? "We do not worship money. As for he who is in our midst for money, Allah has taken care of him. Hypocrites who lived with the Prophet could not harm him. You can't in anyway harm me."
Islamic irredentists believe that Shekau's murderous quest in the name of doing Allah's bidding derives from some ill-understood portions of the Quran like some of the ones quoted below:
"Remember when your Lord inspired to the angels, 'I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike (them) upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.' -- Qur'an 8:12 'When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks...'" -- Qur'an 47:4.