Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters on Thursday, carried out deadly attacks on military formations and civilians in three towns in Borno State - Gubio, Gajiganna and Gajiram, killing six soldiers and a civilian militia leader, security sources and residents told AFP.
This is coming just three days after ISWAP ambushed Nigerian soldiers in Gudumbali town, in the same Borno State, killing nine soldiers of Operation Lafiya Dole, while 20 others could not be accounted for.
In a swift response to the recent attacks, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai yesterday ordered troops to go all out and deal decisively with Boko Haram and ISWAP. He was however silent on the setback suffered by Nigerian soldiers in Gudumbali, Gubio, Gajiganna, Gajiram.
Sources said six soldiers were killed during the attack on Thursday in Gubio, which started around 1630 GMT.
"The bodies of six soldiers and the local head of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the town were recovered outside the town with bullet wounds," a security source told AFP.
A resident of Gubio town, Idrissa Kaka, said the jihadists stormed into Gubio with a dozen pickup trucks mounted with machine guns.
Military sources said the terrorists also made off with three military vehicles and a van belonging to the CJTF.
"The whereabouts of the remaining soldiers is unknown. Our fear is that they were captured along with the vehicles," the source said.
On the same day, the jihadists also attacked the towns of Gajiganna and Gajiram, where they torched buildings and sent soldiers fleeing.
Gubio, which lies 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Borno State, capital of Maiduguri, had been repeatedly targeted by the jihadists.
Last month, six people including three soldiers were killed when ISWAP attacked the military base in the town.
Since July last year, ISWAP had intensified attacks on military targets, raiding bases and ambushing military patrols.
Just on Monday, no fewer than nine soldiers of Operation Lafiya Dole were reportedly killed, while 20 others could not be accounted for after a battle with ISWAP in Gudumbali town of Borno State.
The soldiers were ambushed by the terrorists, who engaging them overnight from Monday until the early hours of Tuesday in a village called Granda.
Sources, however, said some of the soldiers later fled, leading to the overrunning of the military base in Gudumbali.
The bodies of the slain soldiers had since been evacuated and deposited at the military hospital in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
According to eyewitnesses, the insurgents carted away a fuel tanker and other vehicles in Gudumbali. However, it was not clear if the terrorists abducted some of the missing soldiers as claimed.
The ambushed battalion had just been deployed to Gudumbali to commence a new operational strategy codenamed Super Camp. It was gathered that the insurgents had deployed spies around the military base who pretended to be farmers.
Army authorities have yet to confirm the incidents and the casualty figures.
The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, could not be reached for comment.
Buratai Orders Frontline Soldiers to Deal Decisively with Boko Haram, ISWAP
Meanwhile, Buratai yesterday ordered troops to go all out and deal decisively with Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters.
The Army chief also urged Nigerians to stop emboldening terrorists by glorifying them and warned that sensational headlines by media organisations that tend to support terrorist activities violate the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011.
Buratai did not, however, speak on the reported killing of nine soldiers and the missing 20 others in Gudumbali between Monday and Tuesday after troops clashed with terrorists in Granda village.
He also kept mum on the killing of another six soldiers and a civilian militia leader in Gubio. Several soldiers and members of the CJTF are also missing, while troops were forced to flee three towns - Gubio, Gajiganna and Gajiram.
Buratai, who spoke from Maiduguri, said soldiers were enjoined to deal decisively with the terrorists.
"All troops have been enjoined to henceforth go all out to deal decisively with these criminals. They are nothing but bandits and armed robbers. Let's support our military to ensure a secured Nigeria", Buratai said in a statement signed by Army Spokesman, Col Sagir Musa.
He said the Nigerian Army desperately needed the support of Nigerians to win the insurgency war, warning that support for the insurgents was detrimental to the country's march to peace.
"It is therefore important that all Nigerians rally round our gallant troops as they fight these criminals. All should know that support for the efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the counter terrorism efforts would boost their morale and it will be highly appreciated.
"The Nigerian Army is asking for the continued understanding and cooperation of all Nigerians and well-meaning people", he said.