Nigerian troops fighting the extremist Boko Haram sect have suffered major setbacks, with the terror group sacking an army battalion, killing eight soldiers and wounding 11 others in two separate attacks in three days, reliable military insiders have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The army formations involved in the incidents also lost several arms and ammunition, and are calling for urgent restocking of their armouries, our sources said.
The first incident, involving troops deployed at the Forward Operating Base in Sabon Gari, Borno State, occurred at about 6 p.m. on Monday when over 200 Boko Haram terrorists on motorcycles suddenly descended on the base.
The terrorists, according to those familiar with the incidents, had five gun trucks on which twin barrel artillery guns were mounted.
The Nigerian troops fought back gallantly, but were dislodged from their location after about an hour of fierce battle.
Five soldiers were killed in action while nine others were seriously injured. Four other soldiers are yet to be found as at the time of this report
Army authorities did not immediately comment about the development.
Efforts made by this newspaper to get Army spokesperson, Sani Usman; Defence spokesperson, John Enenche; and Commander of Multi-National Joint Task Force in Maiduguri, Leo Irabor, were unsuccessful.
While Mr. Usman, a brigadier general, and Mr. Irabor, a major general, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to their respective phone lines on Thursday; an assistant to Mr. Enenche, a major general, said his boss was at a meeting.
The subordinate, who identified himself as Lieutenant Colonel Olabisi, said Mr. Enenche was holding a seminar with defence correspondents and will revert back as soon as possible.
Subsequent calls to his phone after about two hours later were neither answered nor returned. The initial text messages sent to his line were also not replied to before this publication.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that hours after the unit retreated from its Sabon Gari base, the surviving troops, along with reinforcements from 25 Brigade, returned to the location in several armoured cars and buses.
The counterattack was largely successful, but the army is currently lamenting the loss of their equipment, arms and ammunition in the incident.
Our sources gave a list of equipment carted away by the terrorists to include three Steyr Armoured Personnel Carriers, one gun truck mounted with anti-aircraft ammunition, and 9 self-propelled guns.
The terrorists also carted away 16 AK47 rifles, one HF radio, two rocket-propelled grenades, two 60MM mortals and all the reserved ammunition and drugs in the base.
But two days later, just as the army was trying to address the loss caused it by that incident, troops of 82 Division Task Force Battalion ran into an IED ambush laid by the terrorists.
That attack occurred at about 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, April 19, while the soldiers were on administrative patrol along the Ngoshe-Bokkotinta-Pulka axis.
Three soldiers were killed in the incident while two were wounded.
The troops also lost one gun truck, one mine lab detector device and four AK 47 rifles.
Our sources said a large number of terrorists were killed in the two incidents while several others escaped with gunshot wounds.
The latest Boko Haram attacks despite the efforts of the Nigerian soldiers indicate they have not been completely defeated. The terror group has lost virtually all the territory it once controlled to Nigerian forces and displaced persons have since started returning to such communities.
The recent attacks also come about one week after the world marked three years since the abduction of over 200 female students by the Boko Haram from Chibok in Borno State. President Muhammadu Buhari has, however, indicated his administration's determination to ensure the return of the 195 girls still believed to be held captive by the terror group.