The Defence Headquarters Monday confirmed the recent terrorist attack on its base in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State in which military and paramilitary officers were killed.
Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Sawyerr, in a statement, said both Nigerian and Nigerien forces were in a collaborative operation to trail the remaining ISWAP fighters.
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He described the incident as unfortunate, saying troops of Operation Hadarin Daji in conjunction with other security agencies, successfully repelled the attack.
He said: “The failed attack, which took place at about 5:30am, 26 September 2021, in the remote border settlement with Niger Republic was swiftly repelled by troops.
“The aggressive operations of troops of the FOB as witnessed in recent months in the North West region, has been a thorn in the flesh of ISWAP and bandits.
“The attackers came in large numbers using telecom networks provided from neighbouring countries, capitalised on the lean rear area protection force when the main troops were out conducting offensive operations within their area of responsibility.
“However, the swift reinforcement by own troops helped to counter the attack as many of the ISWAP fighters were eliminated while some scrambled with various degrees of injuries, resulting in their pursuit to Bassira in Niger Republic.
“Unfortunately, there were some levels of casualty recorded on the part of our own troops during the encounter.”
He said the general security within the Forward Operation Base (FOB) and its environs had been stabilized.
But a lecturer at the Department of History, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, who studies banditry in the North West and recently wrote a paper titled ‘I am a bandit’, Dr Murtala Rufa’i, told our correspondent yesterday that the commander of vigilantes in Sabon Birni had said that a notorious bandits’ leader in the eastern part of Sokoto, Turji, had claimed responsibility for the attacked
“He told residents of some communities in Sabon Birni that nobody should be blamed over the attack because he was behind it,” Rufa’i said
He refuted the military’s claim that the attack was carried out by ISWAP, saying: “The truth of the matter is we don’t have elements of ISWAP in Sabon Birni. The only history of ISWAP we have in the state was between 2018 and 2019 when some jihadists who have elements of ISWAP and Ansaru lodged in some places around Tangaza, Gudu and Illela, but were cleared by the Nigerian military in a joint operation with the Nigerien army and since then, nothing is heard about them.
“Basically that attack was engineered by Turji because he and Halilu and Dankarami have buried their differences and are united now because of the ongoing military operation in Zamfara.
“Before this operation, they were not together, Halilu was alone, Turji was alone and Dankarami was alone. And because of this military operation, they’ve united.
“And reports coming from Zamfara show that there’s no a single leader of bandits so far killed, or injured or left his base. They only left their base temporarily and they would go back.
“This attack has to do with ambush, the security operatives were ambushed and killed. They killed soldiers, civil defence and police. In fact, there was a civil defence officer I know among those killed. He is a younger brother of my friend,” he said.
A security and intelligence expert, Kabiru Adamu, in an interview with Daily Trust, said the only way to frustrate the activities of the attackers is to ensure all ungoverned spaces are used.
He said: “I’ll not conclude these statements without mentioning the need to need to take over the ungoverned spaces. There is a forest that links Zamfara to Sabon Birni in Sokoto, it is most likely these bandits used to get to Sabon Birni, they didn’t move through normal road.
“We need to dominate those forests, we need to have eyes and ears in those forests, we need to ensure that no one who is against us is staying in those forests, and the only way to do that is to come up with a novel idea to make those forests useful for Nigerians.
“The military as well as the entire security architecture should have intelligence that will tell them who these groups are, what their capabilities are, when they are planning such attacks, and of course the motive of such attacks.
“Sometimes, the motive is just to kill, and other times, to steal weapons from the armory of the military. So, the intelligence will reveal all of that, and of course, if you have that type of intelligence, it means you can prevent the attacks.”