Troops on the hunt for the more than 200 school girls abducted last month in Chibok, Borno State are up against a fresh challenge.
Their navigation of the massive Sambisa forest where the girls are believed to be kept by their abductors is being restricted by land mines laid across the area by Boko Haram, it was learnt yesterday.
Vigilant soldiers detected the mines and the spots have accordingly been marked.
A military source said the troops were being hampered in moving around the Sambisa forest because of many landmines planted by Boko Haram.
The source said commanders and troops, which have been operating on the fringes of the forest, have marked the spots where the landmines are laid.
The source said: “Boko Haram is desperate to protect Sambisa Forest and prevent troops from gaining access to any part of it. So far, troops have discovered many landmines along the routes to Sambisa Forest; they are battling to clear these mines. Some of the landmines can destroy military tanks. We have marked the affected landmines spots and troops have been given appropriate directive.
“This development has confirmed intelligence gathering that the forest is either a major base of the sect or where the girls are kept.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “We have detonated some of the landmines but what they do mostly is to get counter-intelligence about movement of troops and in a make-shift strategy, they will go and lay landmines.
“People have been asking why it is difficult to overrun Sambisa Forest. We have a challenge of landmines but we are trying to clear these mines. In tackling mines, you peg them and detonate.
“Planting landmines is a ploy by Boko Haram to ambush troops and block access to Sambisa Forest.”
The Presidential Fact- Finding Committee on the girls abduction met behind closed doors yesterday with Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State.
Leading the committee was its chairman, Brigadier General Ibrahim Sabo (rtd).
The session focused mostly on options available to set the girls free.
The private session, which lasted three hours, was held at the Government House in Maiduguri.
A source described the meeting as a no-holds-barred session.
“The session was to forge a consensus on the rescue strategy. We had paid a courtesy call on the governor on Tuesday but this secret session on Saturday was frank,” the source said.
“We have been establishing a good number of facts on how to rescue the girls.”
A member/spokesperson of the Committee, Kingsley Osadolor, said: “The committee rubbed minds with the governor behind closed doors on Saturday but I cannot give you the details yet.”