No fewer than 40 soldiers of the Nigerian Army were feared killed in a Boko Haram ambush in the north of Borno State.
A highly placed military source told our correspondent on Tuesday that about 65 others were missing as a result of the attack by the Islamic militants.
Investigations revealed that the insurgents attacked the soldiers in Kasiya Forests, north of Borno State.
It was learnt that the troops were left to face the heavily armed insurgents, who attacked them from different directions following the failure of the planners of the operation to give aerial support to the soldiers.
It was also gathered that soldiers involved in the ongoing campaign against the Boko Haram insurgents were firing indiscriminately into the air to protest against the killings which they described as strategic errors.
The soldiers were said to have demanded why the initial arrangement of aerial support was not provided to back the soldiers.
The source added that the casualty figure on the side of the Nigerian soldiers in the ongoing campaign against the insurgents had been on the high side as a result of repeated mistakes and communication inadequacies.
But the authorities of the Nigerian Army denied the report that it lost 40 soldiers with 65 others missing in a Boko Haram onslaught.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. General Ibrahim Attahiru, said in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday that soldiers of the 81 Battalion under the new created Division ‘7’ of the Nigerian Army carried out a raid on a Boko Haram hideout in Kasiya Forests of Ngazai Local Government Area of Borno State which resulted in a prolonged gun duel with the insurgents.
The Army spokesman said the invading troops of the Nigerian Army killed 150 of the insurgents and lost 15 men in the encounter, adding that nine other soldiers were still missing.
According to him, a wanted Boko Haram commander, Abba Goroma, was among those killed in the battle at the Kasiya Forest.
He said that the insurgents were well armed with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons mounted on their vehicles.
He said, “On the 12th of September 2013, troops of 81 Battalion under ‘7’ Division of the Nigerian Army carried out a deliberate attack on an insurgent camp at Kasiya Forest.
“During the attack, a fierce battle ensued between our soldiers and the insurgents which lasted several hours.
“The insurgents were completely routed and the camp cleared. Over 150 insurgents died. On our own side, we lost one officer, a lieutenant and 15 soldiers, and nine other soldiers are still missing.
“The insurgent camp was well fortified with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons mounted on vehicles.
“One Abba Goroma, one top insurgent commander was killed, he was a high valued target, he had a bounty of N10m on his head.”
Similarly, the Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the operation at the Kasiya forest was carried out by ground forces with aerial support.
He confirmed that the camp had a high concentration of armed insurgents who were shooting wildly as the Nigerian troops turned the heat on them.
He said that even though, investigation into the operation had commenced, it had nothing to do with any operational shortcoming.
On the issue of the protest and anger exhibited by soldiers in Borno State over the killing of soldiers by the insurgents, he said that such a thing could not have happened considering the high level of discipline exhibited by the soldiers since the commencement of the operation.