The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has commenced airstrikes on Boko Haram terrorists’ locations in Borno State.
A top military intelligence officer said the latest airstrikes had destroyed a convoy of vehicles linked to Boko Haram attackers involved in last week raid on the military base at Metele in Borno State.
Insurgents had used rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and AK-47 rifles in raiding the military base where armoured vehicles were destroyed, and a number of officers and men of the Nigerian Army killed.
Scores of officers and men of the 157 Task Force Battalion were massacred in Metele, Borno State, on November 19 by Boko Haram insurgents. At least 118 soldiers were reportedly killed and 153 missing.
After initial denials, the military finally confirmed the attack last Friday night, five days after, but said reports of over 100 losses were untrue.
“The Nigerian Air Force is following the trail of the terrorists and has successfully destroyed about seven vehicles including gun truck and eliminated all the terrorists in the vehicles,” the military source said.
“The air force deployed the Mi-35M, multi-role combat helicopters, which delivers a more superior flight performance with high-precision weaponry in destroying ground targets.
“Meanwhile, the aircraft also crossed the border into a neighbouring country in hot pursuits where terrorists and stolen armored vehicles were destroyed.
“The airstrikes took place in Tumbun Rego, Kangarwa and Mainok. There were also similar attacks hours after the Sunday’s attack. We expect the Nigerian air force to release air strike footage soon.”
Indications have also emerged that most of the Boko Haram commanders and their foot soldiers who attacked the military base were non-Nigerians. Another intelligence officer told PRNigeria that the attackers were speaking Arabic, French and some foreign languages.
This came as military authorities announced it has begun recovering bodies of scores of the soldiers.
Daily Sun learnt that, initially, it was almost impossible for the military to access Melete, as the terrorists reportedly planted Improvised Explosive Device (IED), on the major routes to the area.
Daily Sun gathered that military authorities were having difficulties contacting families of the killed soldiers who were picked from various units and formations across the country to form the battalion unlike in the past when soldiers were deployed from a particular unit to operation areas.
Meanwhile, the military authorities have alleged sabotage on the part of its personnel, politicians and other high profile Nigerians who do not want the terrorism war to end.
To this effect, it has concluded plan to launch an investigation, this week, to unravel circumstances surrounding the attack described as “very embarrassing” and one of the deadliest in the history of the anti-insurgent fight.
Apart from the probe, the development has necessitated the suspension of the Chief of Army Staff annual conference scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State.
A memo announcing the decision has been circulated to senior officers at the Army Headquarters, Defence Headquarters, Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and independent Principal Officers over the suspension.
According to a top army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, “this attack is not ordinary because we have done everything possible with the little equipment we have to contain the insurgents from operating freely like they used to. We don’t know whether it is sabotage, negligence or sell out. But the truth is that no matter what happened, lives of those soldiers are not worth sacrificing; and that is the most painful aspect of the whole attack.
“That people could just mobilise and take the lives of very aspiring young Nigerians because they decided to join the military is not good at all. I mean, how do you want their families to feel? You just carried a group of young men to go and sacrifice just like that?
“It is also possible that the troops may have been drugged or poisoned to have suffered that much in the hands of the terrorists who also carted away high calibre weapons from the soldiers
“We must get to the bottom of this attack because a situation where a commanding officer, the Adjutant and the Regimental Sergeant Major of a unit are killed like flies would not just be swept under the carpet.”
The source also raised posers about the N1 billion loan approved for the military by the Presidency to purchase equipment for the counter-insurgency war.
“With all these attacks, one begins to wonder what has happened to the N1 billion approved by
the National Economic Council for the purchase of arms for the military. We thought that it was because of its urgency that the president boycotted the National Assembly. As we speak, we have not had any new supply in the last three years.’
According to the source, the most lethal arsenal in the hands of troops, including 40 barrel artillery gun and three T-17 tanks and were captured by the Melete invaders.
“In fact, with what the terrorists carted away from the base, they can have a smooth sail into maiduguri, if they want to.”
Apart from the lack of adequate equipment, the source said the hostile terrain made it difficult for ground troops to get to locations.
“It is a place that needs not less than ten helicopters to operate effectively, but unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of luxury.
“It is so bad that if a particular unit is under attack and you call for reinforcements from the next unit, it would take hours to get there. Moreover, those terrorists always know where the reinforcements would come from somehow and they will ambush them along the road.
“Honestly, it is a difficult thing; it’s not as easy as people think. And to worsen the situation, we are no longer fighting the Nigerian Boko Haram, we are now fighting the foreign Boko Haram who use countries like Chad, Cameroon, Niger and the rest as entry points. Unfortunately, those countries cannot do much to help us because they too are battling terrorism.”
To rev up the regional cooperation against insurgency, Minister of Defence Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with his Chadian counterpart, General Daoud Yaya within the week.
According to the spokesman of the minister, Colonel Tukur Gasau, the parley is in continuation of consultations with Ministers of Defence of Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) Troops contributing countries (TCC) namely Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin Republic.
“The Minister’s visit to Chad will revolve around strengthening the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to enable it achieve its mandate of eliminating security threats and creating a safe and secure environment in its area of responsibility,” Colonel Gusau, said in a statement released in Abuja.
The minister had paid a similar visit to Niger Republic in September 2018 during which he held a similar bilateral discussion with his Nigerien counterpart.