At least 33 soldiers including an officer were killed on Sunday by Boko Haram fighters and an air force fighter jet in Mainok, Borno State, credible sources said.
It was learnt that a fighter jet of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) mistakenly targeted ground forces heading to Mainok town, 55 kilometres to Maiduguri to repel invading terrorists loyal to the Islamic State of West Africa Providence (ISWAP).
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Sources said while many Boko Haram fighters who disguised as friendly Nigerian soldiers penetrated the military Super Camp in Mainok and inflicted serious damage on troops and equipment, the fighter jet bombed a gun truck conveying some soldiers on a rescue mission. A video of the incident is already trending online.
The attack on Mainok has been described as “the most devastating” in recent weeks considering the damage inflicted.
However, the air force said on Monday that it was investigating the story alleging its men killed 20 Nigerian Army personnel by accident in an airstrike at Mainok.
But a statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Mohammed Yerima, said an officer and six soldiers lost their lives while many Boko Haram fighters were killed during the raid by the militants.
‘The terrorists were held by the gallant troops of 156 Task Force Battalion until the arrival of reinforcement teams from 7 Division, Special Army Super Camp Ngamdu and Army Super Camp 4, Benesheik.
“During the firefight which lasted several hours, the gallant troops tactically lured a number of the terrorists into a killing zone within their camp where the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole scrambled Alpha jets and helicopter gunboats which took turns in decimating the already trapped terrorists.
“In the aftermath of the encounter, scores of Boko Haram terrorists were neutralised with their body parts littering the area and a number of their gun trucks destroyed.
“Regrettably, one gallant officer and six soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice while 5 other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries,” he said.
How the carnage was carried out
Credible sources said the Boko Haram fighters invaded Mainok in a convoy of four Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPs), a scorpion Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and several gun trucks. They reportedly disguised as friendly forces before dislodging troops of 156 Battalion and setting the camp ablaze.
They also moved into the community still dressed in Nigerian military desert camouflage and looted foodstuff and other logistics from shops.
One of our sources said: “The ISWAP fighters divided themselves into three groups. The well-armed fighters attacked the base. They raided and overrun the military base and killed no fewer than 30 soldiers including the Commanding Officer (CO).
“Another group was set for an ambush in case of reinforcement of troops from Damaturu road. This group successfully ambushed some soldiers and killed 3 of them while nine others were injured.
“The last group was stationed along Jakana – Mainok road that leads to Maiduguri. They, too, ambushed some soldiers and seized one MRAP vehicle and killed 3 soldiers.
Another source said the terrorists that stormed the super camp took all the soldiers in the restricted area by surprise because they were well-kitted in military paraphernalia.
“The uniforms the terrorists wore, the vehicles they drove and everything are just the same with those being used by our troops. You will not be wrong if you say they stole them from our troops elsewhere and I think this is why they entered the super camp with ease.
“Once at the premises, they opened fire from all directions and therefore subdued our troops. They stole military hardware and set others on fire.
“The fighter jet came after the boys have left and it only succeeded in dropping it (bomb) on some soldiers. The terrorists left a flyer behind saying Benishek is their next target,” the source said. He added that the Boko Haram fighters also seized some of the military fighting logistics being conveyed to Maiduguri from Lagos. This claim could not be independently verified by our reporters.
A security expert who does not want his name mentioned asked some rhetorical questions: “What happened to the hundreds of troops on the highways from Jimtilo, Auno, Jakana and Mainok up till Benishek? How can they allow a super camp to be sacked? What is the cock fly distance between the air force base in Maiduguri and Mainok? It was not dark; the attack was launched in daylight. How come we still have friendly causality from the air force? If a super camp could be overrun so easily, then what is the need for it?
Reacting, a Public Affairs Analyst, Abubakar Mohammed Kareto, lamented that the attack on Geidam in Yobe State and Mainok in Borno typified the level of setbacks suffered by the military and civilian population in recent times.
“It is a deadly battle of supremacy with the nation’s military the impact of which will remain huge and unbearable to the people.
“Mainok is a town along Maiduguri-Damaturu Road, the road linking Maiduguri to Kano. Anytime there is an attack on the road, hopes for peace in Maiduguri further dampens.
“The fear is that once the Maiduguri road falls into the hands of the terrorists, the insurgents would have effectively won the war because the Borno State capital would have been practically cut off from all access by land. There is need more action from all and sundry to ensure that insurgents are denied of freedom movements,” Kareto said.
Security sources told one of our correspondents that the Boko Haram terrorists had also attacked Gwoza and Gamboru Ngala all in Borno State on Monday night.
“They attacked Gwoza at about the time the people were about breaking their fast but Nigerian troops repelled them. The terrorists also suffered casualty at a village near Gamboru because three of them were killed and three gun trucks recovered,” the source said.
Our troops being ridiculed – Borno Forum
The Borno Emirates Concerned Citizens Forum (BECCF) said on Monday that the dislodgement of Nigerian troops from Damasak, Geidam, and Mainok by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents had ridiculed the military. Its Chairman, Zanna Hassan Boguma, stated this while addressing a press conference in Maiduguri. The forum noted that the recent escalation of insecurity in Borno and Yobe States was alarming.
“The situation is bad because Damasak was attacked not once but many times; Dikwa was attacked, Geidam was equally attacked and now Mainok was attacked. So, the number of casualties on the part of our military is worrisome, we are worried because these are men who leave their loved ones to defend this nation and are being killed by insurgents. We are worried, the military needs to be proactive and restrategise its operation. It is getting out of hand.
“We hope the military will sit up and do what is expected of them, because Nigeria is at a crossroads…The crises in the North East, North West, South East and North Central.
“Nowhere is safe in this country; it is a general problem. Therefore, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate his background as a general to secure the nation. We should not allow Boko Haram, bandits and other elements to take over the security of Nigeria.
“There is need for a thorough investigation and reorganisation of the security architecture. The point of shifting blames on civilians is over, because looking at the recent mass exodus in Damasak and Geidam, our people are helpless and no living soul will invite such wrath upon themselves,” he said.
Troops finally enter Geidam 4 days after
Nigerian troops have finally entered Geidam four days after ISWAP fighters took control of the agrarian town. Sources said the insurgents had a field day since Friday, calling prayers in mosques and checkmating locals who showed some resistance.
It was not clear at press time whether the troops have flushed out the Boko Haram fighters but sources said the fight was ongoing in the main Geidam town as the terrorists are still in charge of towns and villages in the outskirt.
The Nigerian soldiers could not confront the terrorists who used the local population as human shield, local officials told the Daily Trust on Monday. On the other hand, the terrorists could not go out of the town for fear of being killed by fighter jets.
“It was like a stalemate…The military operatives were being careful not to kill the local people and the terrorists felt using the poor people as human shield would give them cover,” Mohammed Geidam, a local official said. He said the terrorists did not deny willing residents from vacating the town but warned them not to serve as informants after they leave.
Governor Mai Mala Buni, who was with the chief of defence staff in Abuja on Sunday, had returned to Damaturu to attend to the humanitarian needs of thousands of people that fled Geidam.
He told the Hausa Service of the BBC that his people were living in fear.
“Even though people are aware of the security challenges faced by the North East region for many years, the recent attacks are worrisome, the terrorist have to be confronted. It is true we are living in fear and we must work hand in hand to bring the problem to an end.”
“In the past, activities of the Boko Haram have reduced in the state. But this time around, they are coming with a new strategy and things are getting out of hand. We don’t know the reason behind their coming.
“The reports we are getting from the security is that the town is still in their (Army) control and they are putting in place the appropriate measures to bring back peace in the state,” he said.
On reports that Boko Haram attacked the town more than four times, the governor said: “They come and take our food for reasons we don’t know yet. But this one is different since they launched attacks and stayed for the whole day in the town.”
‘Boko Haram have totally occupied our villages’
Many villages surrounding Geidam are being occupied by the terrorists, a local resident has said.
The resident, who would not want his name mentioned for security reasons told Daily Trust on the telephone that the insurgents have already hoisted their flags in the affected villages, which are under Yunusari, a local government area that shares a boundary with Geidam.
He listed the villages to include: Buhari, Matari, Bullabulin, Bejaltura, Bakin Ruwa, and Bakin Kogi.
“They have totally occupied these areas and hoisted their flags. They have equally occupied the houses of residents and are patrolling freely with bicycles, motorbikes, and vehicles.
“Ninety-eight percent of the villagers have fled. They are not attacking the locals so long as their presence remains unchallenged. I was away from my village when they attacked last Friday but yesterday I went to evacuate my family successfully without being attacked by them,” said the source.
He appealed to the authorities to act promptly because the invaders, among them Chadians, “will soon start looting properties and burning houses.”
My sister died in front of me – Woman
A woman who survived the Boko Haram in Geidam has narrated how she watched her sister died.
The woman, who pleaded anonymity, told BBC Hausa that an artillery which was thrown into her room exploded and claimed her sister’s life. She said the deceased left behind a daughter who is some months old.
“We heard her crying for help, but we couldn’t do anything until she died. We could only rescue her baby and God so kind nothing has happened to her. I am the one breastfeeding her now.”
She said 11 people died from the attack and that they were now living in the bush under a tree, not knowing what the future holds for them.
Buhari’s achievement meaningless without security- APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that only in safety that citizens could enjoy achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, in a statement said with the current realities of activities of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers as well as attacks on security formations, the APC would not play politics with matters of life and the nation’s collective wellbeing.
“Only in safety can we enjoy the current agriculture revolution which has seen Nigeria achieve self-sufficiency in rice and other staple food items.
“Only in safety can we enjoy the current infrastructure revolution that has witnessed the rehabilitation, construction and reconstruction of over 13,000 kilometres of critical federal roads, construction of thousands of affordable and acceptable housing and of course the ongoing national railway projects gainfully connecting cities and towns across the country.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari administration is criminalising crime, not ethnicity. Despite our natural differences in culture, religion and ethnicities, we are more patriotic, alike and united than bigots, sectarian opportunists and unpatriotic partisans try to make us believe. We have a collective stake in our country’s security and ensuring that Nigeria works for all,” he said.
From Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri), Ibrahim B. Saleh (Damaturu), Fidelis Mac-Leva, Idowu Isamotu, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) & Zahraddeen Yakubu (Kano)