Two foreign mercenaries and high calibre weapons have been captured by the military during an operation in Balmo forest in Borno State.
The forest was described as a haven for terrorists’ bases.
Troops also in another offensive killed over 44 Boko Haram insurgents in Kerenoa and adjoining communities and lost six soldiers while repelling attacks on the communities.
A statement by the Director of Defence Information, DDI, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the Balmo forest operation lasted throughout the weekend.
“Prior to the operation, Balmo forest, stretching from Bauchi through Jigawa states with links to the fringes of Sambisa forest, was used by terrorists as bases and hideouts for launching attacks.
“Terrorists and armed gangs operating in the forests were completely rooted out while some were captured during the operation.
“Among those captured were two foreigners suspected to be mercenaries.
“Also captured are several weapons and equipment, including power generating sets, communication equipment, vehicles, motorcycles, foodstuffs and kitchen utensils.
“In another development, over 44 terrorists have died in Kerenoa and adjoining communities, following an encounter with troops who repelled their attack on the communities.
“Armed with IEDs and other high calibre weapons, a large number of terrorists had carried out a pre-dawn attack on the communities but met with stiff resistance of the troops.
“During the operation, several of them were captured as well as weapons and ammunition of various calibres.
“Meanwhile, troops on routine patrol around Banki and Miyanti in Borno State also at the weekend fought through an ambush laid by terrorists resulting in casualties on both sides.
“Altogether, a total of six soldiers were lost in the various encounters with terrorists at the weekend while those wounded are receiving treatment,” the DHQ stated.
In Gombe State, an attempt to bomb final year students of Government Day Secondary School (Pilot), in Tudun Wada area of Gombe metropolis was yesterday foiled by the state police command.
The students were writing their National Examinations Council, NECO, exam in mathematics during the planned attack.
The incident threw residents into panic as most of them scampered for dear lives after the police discovered a Honda Odyssey laden with heavy explosives in the school located directly opposite the Gombe Police Area Command.
The state Police Commissioner, Abdullahi Kudu Nma, who briefed journalists over the incident, said they received a distressed call from the area around 10:30am and immediately moved in with bomb disposal experts who succeeded in defusing the explosives on the premises of the school.
Our correspondent, however, gathered that the suicide bomber, who defied security guards at the gate of the school, tried to detonate the bomb by running the car several times into the walls of the school but did not succeed.
On close inspection by the police, it was discovered that the vehicle was loaded with 10 long and short cylinders believed to contain explosives and two ammunition boxes suspected to be carrying explosive substance.
Following the discovery, the command’s bomb disposal unit quickly went into action and succeeded in defusing the explosives after which the police removed the vehicle and the explosives to their headquarters for further investigation.
The police commissioner, who could not confirm whether arrests were made or not, however, told journalists that investigation was going on.
He added that but for the quick intervention of the police, the explosives would have caused monumental destruction and killed all the students writing the examination in the hall.
The commissioner said the scene was cordoned off so as not to jeopardise investigations, stressing that going by the number and weight of the explosive cylinders, the blast would have affected or destroyed houses and persons as far as 800 metres away from the school.
The command advised the people to be securityconscious and report any suspicious object to the police.
In another development, the National Association of Nigerian Traders, NANTS, yesterday said it had lost 197 of its members to Boko Haram attacks on markets in the past three months.
It called on the Federal Government and other agencies involved in national security to adopt preventive strategies that would guarantee lives and property in markets nationwide.
The President of the as sociation, Mr. Ken Ukaoha, at a media briefing in Abuja, lamented the increasing targetting of trading spots, especially the markets, and wondered why innocent traders should be their object of attacks in the past few weeks.
Ukaoha said at least 16 traders were killed on Match 20 this year when the insurgents attacked Ngusoraye Village market in Borno State while 122 lives were also lost and 42 other traders injured on May 20 at the Terminus Market in Jos when the insurgents struck.
In addition, he reported that 24 traders died while 27 others were injured at the EMAB Plaza bomb blast on June 27 in Abuja.
Also, the NANTS boss said another 35 traders died while 68 others were injured when the insurgents also attacked the El- Kanemi Roundabout Monday Market, Borno on July 2 this year.
Ukaoha, who recounted the ordeal and pains of the deceased members’ families, urged the Federal Government, the Federal Capital Territory Minister and state governors to help in stopping the carnage in markets across the country to ensure improved contribution of trade to national development.
He said the association was ready to collaborate with the tiers of government and security agencies on how best to protect the markets and other highbrow trading centres across the country, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory and the troubled states in the North.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday said it was getting nearer to finding the over 200 abducted students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
The Coordinator of the National Information Centre, NIC, Mike Omeri, who spoke on the issue yesterday, however, did not elaborate.
He said that the suspected co-mastermind of the Nyanya Motor Park bombing, Ahmed Ogwuche, a deserter- soldier, was traced to Sudan and his process of extradition was still being processed.
Omeri insisted that the process of Ogwuche’s extradition was underway as officials of Nigeria and Sudan were working on relevant papers to that effect. He, however, denied knowledge of any court process initiated against the move by Ogwuche’s family members.
Omeri, who led other members of the NIC on the regular briefing on efforts to locate and bring back the girls to their families, said security agencies had made much headway in infiltrating the ranks of the terrorists.
He added that they were in possession of information that would eventually lead to the rescue of the girls and ultimate defeat of Boko Haram.
Omeri, also the Director- General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, said part of the new information obtained about the dreaded group was that it had a female wing.
In addition, he said a Boko Haram armourer was arrested but said other information was still undergoing administrative processes and as such classified.
“We will let you know when further actions are taken. We now know some of the female operatives of Boko haram and some of their armourers,” he said.
On accusations by the Chibok community in Abuja that the Federal Government was not sharing information with them concerning efforts being made to locate and bring home the girls, Omeri said: “This centre has been open, we have always communicated and media houses have been reporting. But if they want security information beyond what we are communicating, then that is beyond us here.”