No fewer than 50 Boko Haram members and over 30 soldiers have been feared killed in encounters around Pilka, Kirawa and Gwoza communities of Borno State in the last one week, a reliable security source has confirmed.
It would be recalled that Boko Haram terrorists in a daring move last week captured the strategic town of Gwoza and abducted the new Emir of the town, Alhaji Muhammed Idrisa Timta, who took over from his late father killed by insurgents.
An initial attempt by the military to retake the enclave was not successful with the fate of the Battalion Commander, Lt-Col. Agu, yet to be ascertained.
However, the military has launched a new offensive in a reinvigorated effort to retake the town amid reports that the kidnapped Gwoza monarch has escaped from Boko Haram captivity.
“The deployment of military troops to Gwoza over the weekend led to serious casualties from both sides, as more than 30 soldiers were ambushed and killed by terrorists in Pilka, Kirawa and other villages along the Maiduguri – Bama – Gwoza troubled road.
“Also, over 50 of the insurgents were killed in the encounter, but unfortunately, military troops in Kirawa withdrew and return to Bama, where they were reunited with their colleagues at the military barracks following the superior firepower from the insurgents. They couldn’t go to Gwoza as directed by their commanders.
“At T- Junction along Banki road, the terrorists also ambushed a military post in which both sides suffered several casualties which I don’t have details of those killed yet,” a top security source in Maiduguri confirmed to our correspondent.
He added that it was difficult for security operatives to enter Gwoza where terrorists had a field day, because, most of the villages along the road leading to the town are now occupied by terrorists, following the sack of their inhabitants.
He said that the insurgents have the advantage of climbing trees and opening fire on military vehicles.
A text message sent to the Director of Defence Information, DDI, to confirm the incident proved abortive, as the text delivered without any response as at the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, the military yesterday vowed that it would not allow any state or part of Nigeria to be captured by the insurgency group.
This is just as it said that troops were intensifying their offensives against the insurgents to protect and preserve the territorial integrity of the country.
Maj-Gen. Olukolade disclosed the militarys position in Abuja during the I-Nigeria Initiative media interaction on security issues.
Olukolade said that the armed forces would continue its offensive in Gwoza and other towns in Borno State threatened by terrorists who overran the area last week.
“On Gwoza, all we can say is that we are still working and we don’t want to leave any part of the town to the terrorists. On the role of the air force, they have been very active in the counterterrorism efforts.
“The armed forces will continue to contribute its quota in fighting terrorism but we require an understanding that these armed forces are committed and placed itself to the disposal of the public.
“Our goal at the mandate is to deny the terrorists the resources they need to cause insecurity against the country.
“I will re-emphasis on what I said; no part of this country will be allowed for the terrorists to occupy, we want to ensure that everywhere is secure enough.
“Anything they are doing is criminal.Armed robbers are rampaging in Lagos, does it mean they control that place or cultists in different parts of the country,doesn’t mean they are in control,” Olukolade said.
The defence spokesman also said the issueof soldiers’ wives who were protesting the deployment of their husbands to the war zones in Borno State had been resolved
He explained that most of the women acted out of ignorance and had promised not to interfere with the military’s administrative and operational procedures.
“For the women in the barracks, we believe that their grievance is lack of understanding and we have explained to them.
“It is not their role to decide on deployment, that tendency will not be condoned anymore; it has been dealt with. They now know the consequences of their action because it’s becoming distracting,” he said.
Olukolade also called for citizens’ support for the efforts of the military, saying that destructive criticism could be counter-productive as this could destroy the soldiers’ morale and negatively impact on their performance in the battlefield.
He drew a parallel between what he described as undue and demoralising criticism of the current Nigerian military efforts in fighting terrorists and the deadly scenario that led to the Sierra Leonean Peoples Liberation Army, SLA, joining the RUF rebels to form the SPLA/RUF rebellion that turned the country into a theatre of tragedy.
The defence spokesman, however,pledged that the Nigerian military, which he said was responsible for the preservation of Sierra Leone and Liberia,would not allow things to degenerate to such level.
Meanwhile, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, has ordered the immediate establishment of Tactical Operation Points in select states of the North-East and North-West.
The points will be established in various strategic locations, including highways in Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba states.
They will be manned by policemen who are said to have received adequate training in tactical operations and counter-terrorism.
A statement yesterday in Abuja by the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the development was part of strategic measures to contain the illegal movement of small arms and light weapons and other explosive materials within the country.
He saidthe IGP had charged assistant inspectors- general of police, AIGs,and commissioners of police in charge of the zones covering the affected states to ensure close supervision and constant re-skilling of the personnel performing the special operations teams.
“The IGP is optimistic that the latest measure will enable the force to halt further spread of violence in the land and frustrate the activities of insurgents and other criminals.
“He added that the force was determined to track and mop up illegal arms and arrest the unchallenged movement of explosive materials by hoodlums and other unpatriotic elements,”Mba said.
The IGP was quoted as vowing that the police would go the extra mile in ensuring that the citizens enjoy maximum safety and security in the country.