Barely one week after the killing of a commanding officer and 25 soldiers in Borno State by the Boko Haram terrorist group, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) yesterday said it had killed 47 fighters of the extremist sect at Doron Naira Island in the Lake Chad region.
MNJTF said the casualties followed a fierce encounter with the terrorist sect, also known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), during a clearance operation in which one soldier also died while 10 others were wounded. The taskforce said it was the heaviest loss suffered by ISWAP in six months.
The clearance operation came as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, urged troops to remain dogged and decisive in the fight against insurgency. Buratai’s admonition followed the killing of the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Azubuike, and 25 soldiers of the 158 Battalion located at Kareto Village, 130 kilometres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The insurgents had earlier overrun three military bases in two months with high casualty figures. Following this, the army chief lamented the lack of commitment on the part of officers and men at the frontlines, a situation he said was stalling the antiterrorist campaign.
Buratai had in a no-holds-barred speech said: “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks: or simply insufficient commitment to a common national/military cause by those at the frontlines.”
His position had attracted severe public criticism, with different groups calling for his sack or resignation.
But after the latest battlefield gains by the military, the MNJTF said in a statement, “In continuation of the ongoing Operation Yancin Tafki to rout Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) from the Lake Chad Area, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in conjunction with national forces yesterday inflicted the heaviest loss in six months on ISWAP.”
Spokesman of MNJTF, Col. Timothy Antigha, who issued the statement, said, “About 6am on June 21, 2019, troops embarked on clearance operation to Doron Naira (an island in Lake Chad), in a bid to disrupt ISWAP’s activities on the island and adjoining localities.
“Troops effectively suppressed ISWAP and successfully conducted the clearance operation. At the end of the engagement, the following statistics were recorded: 42 terrorists were neutralised, several others escaped with gunshot wounds.”
MNJTF said items recovered after the operation included two gun trucks, which were destroyed, three motorcycles, two light machine guns, and two AK 47 riffles.
“Unfortunately, the MNJTF lost a soldier while 10 others were wounded in action. The affected soldiers have been evacuated accordingly,” the statement said.
Antigha said ISWAP also met a similar fate earlier in the week when they attempted to attack MNJTF troops in Sector 1 Forward Operation Base, leading to the death of five terrorists, while one was captured and 13 AK 47 riffles and two hand grenades were recovered.
He disclosed that MNJTF conducted air interdictions in Arege and Malkorony where several terrorists were suspected to have been killed as the headquarters and logistics base of a top ISWAP commander, Abu Talib, was targeted in that operation.
Meanwhile, Buratai has assured troops of 118 and 119 Task Force Battalions in Mallam Fatori of his continuous support and provision of logistic and technical supplies/requirements to defeat and end terrorism in Nigeria. The message was conveyed to the troops by the Theatre Commander (TC), Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Benson Akinroluyo, while on an operational visit to the battalions’ locations in Mallam Fatori axis in Northern Borno, along the fringes of Lake Chad. He charged the troops to remain dogged and increase the momentum in the fight against terrorism and insurgency through sustained proactive, offensive clearance operations. He said this was to ensure that the remaining terrorists were crushed and flushed out of the North-east zone.
An army statement said the visit was in line with the Chief of Army Staff’s directive for commanders to regularly visit troops deployed at the frontlines to appreciate and encourage them to do more.
“It is also an opportunity to assess troops’ wellbeing, operational readiness and to have firsthand information on the security situation in the general area of operation,” it said.