Boko Haram Retreats From Bama Following Fierce Aerial Bombardment From The Military

Boko Haram Retreats From Bama Following Fierce Aerial Bombardment From The Military

By ThisDay on September 7, 2014
Boko Haram Borno Sambisa Forest
Nigerian soldiers of the 'Operation Flush' stand in a military camp in Maiduguri capital of Borno state on June 6, 2013. | Quentin Leboucher/AFP/Getty Images

Insurgent fighters from the Boko Haram Islamic sect were in full retreat from the strategic town of Bama, in Borno State, at the weekend following a fierce aerial onslaught by the Nigerian Air Force, military sources confirmed yesterday. They said the aerial attack aimed at knocking off Boko Haram’s weapon installations in the town it had recently overrun, had been effective and yielding the desired results.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has also confirmed that over 50 terrorists were killed yesterday afternoon as troops raided their hide out in Kawuri shortly before setting out on a planned attack on Konduga.

This was disclosed in statement through the DHQ twitter account @DefenceInfoNG.

The Defence authorities said “one fabricated artillery  gun, two Anti Aircraft gun, an armoured vehicle  and assorted types of ammunition were recovered in the process.

“Some hardware, weapons  food items, and personal belongings were also destroyed in the raid”.

However, one officer and two soldiers were said to be seriously wounded.

But Boko Hram opened another front in the antiterrorism war on Friday after an attack on Gulak town, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State. The Secretary to the Government of Adamawa State, Professor Liman Tukur, who confirmed the attack in a statement, said insurgents had taken over the town.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on Friday ordered a full-scale war against Boko Haram.

NAF intensified its bombing campaign at the weekend to rid Bama of the terrorists, pockets of which were still said to be holding out in the town and its environs. But the battle took a heavy toll on civilian lives and property as the insurgents were said to be embedded with residents, locals said.

A source said, “The first attacks didn’t really make the expected impact but the second round of bombardment really injured those Boko Haram boys, which is why they are retreating now. They are no more deep into Bama, while our people are advancing and gaining territory. The Boko Haram boys are right now retreating.

“We are now dislodging them. You know, Air Force have intensified their efforts; they brought F-7 and different kinds of aircraft. They really bombarded them.”

Another military source confirmed the advances of the Armed Forces in the battle of Bama but cautioned that it was no time for celebration yet, as the operation was still ongoing in several parts of Borno State. He said the situation was “still very volatile” with Gwoza far from being liberated from the terrorists’ siege.

“We don’t want to say anything official but there are still fights going on in different places and on different scales, especially by air.  This is a critical and unusual time,” the senior military officer said.

A senior Air Force officer, who spoke from Borno State, said apart from the aerial campaign in Bama, NAF had been effective in support of the ground forces with the launch of air attacks with different aircraft types, including helicopter gunships.

He said, “We are very deeply involved. You know what we are having here is a joint operation of the services, even though the Navy may not be involved right now because of the terrain.

“First and foremost, apart from the airlift, we are equally supporting the ground forces; in most of the cases we even take the initiative. In modern warfare, Air Force normally does the first dirty job, clear the road for the Army to do the mop up operations.

“Like I said, all our platforms are participating fully here. We have Alpha Jets, we have F7, Beechcraft, Mi35, which is the gunships, and then all our transport planes: C-130, the G TripleT. So we are participating fully and playing a significant role in that place.”

The Defence Headquarters had vowed in a statement by Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, that it will not allow any violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by terrorists. The statement was in apparent response to a growing sense of apprehension among citizens and foreigners following recent reports about the gain of territories in Borno State by Boko Haram.

“While welcoming all the concerns shown by Nigerians and a section of the international community following the increased menace and activities of terrorists, it is necessary to reassure all that the Nigerian Armed Forces is more than ever determined and committed to the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria, regardless of any odd,” Olukolade stated.

“We therefore urge our citizens not to lose hope or be disenchanted but to remain steadfast and supportive of the military as all steps are being taken to ensure the success of the counter-insurgency operations, especially at this crucial time when our sovereignty is being challenged.”

But a military intelligence source said, “Gwoza is still a no-go area, I must tell you the truth, as the town is firmly in hands of the Boko Haram terrorists. We are currently focusing on Bama before advancing to other areas.”

However, the senator for Borno Central senatorial district, Ahmed Zannah, said the military might be playing right into the enemy’s hands by focussing on Bama. He said the reported retreat of Boko Haram from Bama might be a ploy to draw out the military from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, before launching a heavy onslaught on the town.

The warning came against the backdrop of recent Boko Haram seizure of towns that are just few kilometres from Maiduguri, which is already swarming with internally displaced persons said to be numbering over 100,000 who are housed in different camps.

With the recent attacks on Gwoza and Bama, those displaced since January in the North-east are estimated to have risen to over 500,000, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

Zannah said in an alert to the military, “At present, there are pockets of insurgents in Bama, men who are mainly indigenes of the town but left behind by their leaders to continue to terrorise the town. The leaders have left for their hideouts in Sambisa.

“It is believed that those left in Bama are to draw the military out of Maiduguri and when they are reclaiming Bama, the large number of insurgents in Sambisa will sneak into Maiduguri to take control of the town.”

Zannah said Maiduguri, from where the insurgents had been driven about a year ago, remained their ultimate target, saying there are indications that the sect is arming for a battle to capture the ancient town.

Sources within the military blame some of the difficulties being encountered in the fight against Boko Haram on what they term indiscriminate retirement of experienced officers.

One officer said, “The problem we are also having now is that the military retired the very ambitious and brave people from the service for the fear of coup without knowing that this kind of thing will arise. Some of these military officers, very courageous ones, should have still been in the system and by now they could have given the guidelines on how we can go about this.

“They could have acquired enough skills on how to manoeuvre to deal with these guys. If we succeeded outside the shores of this country, in Liberia, Sierra Leone and other places, how much more back home here. The fact is that this is not like a conventional war.”

The opening of another key battlefront in Adamawa State by the insurgents marked a major escalation in the anti-terror war. Tukur said the insurgents killed and displaced many people in Gulak during the attack on the town.

The Adamawa State SSG said in a release at the weekend, “It has come to the attention of the Adamawa State Government that insurgents are now in Gulak, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area, and had killed and displaced scores of people.

“On behalf of the people and government of Adamawa, his Excellency deeply sympathises with the people of Gulak and other surrounding villages and towns whose areas had been overran by insurgents.

“The concomitant effects of the insurgency, like displacement of whole villages and towns, create multitudes of internally displaced persons whose management and welfare the government is left to bear.”

Residents of some villages in Michika Local Government Area, which borders Madagali local government, were said to be fleeing to Uba, Mubi, and Yola for fear of possible attacks.

Chief Press Secretary to the acting governor of Adamawa State, Mr. Solomon Kumangar, also confirmed the attack on Gulak town by insurgents and said several people were killed.
Kumangar, however, denied reports that the residence of the acting governor, Alhaji Umaru Fintiri, in Gulak had been torched by the Boko Haram terrorists.

Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, in a state broadcast on Friday, lamented the siege and plunder of communities in the state by Boko Haram, saying the attempt to predicate the attacks on religion is despicable.

Shettima stated, “In recent days and weeks, we have come under renewed and augmented attacks, waged against all of us by an armed minority that seeks to impose on us a doctrine that is completely at variance with the religion of Islam, which they claim to promote; a doctrine that negates the dignity and existence of humanity on earth, despite Allah’s decree in the glorious Quran that He has dignified the human creature, prohibited unjust killings and made the religion of Islam that which does not sanction compulsion in a multi-faith society like ours.

“Several innocent communities in Gwoza, Damboa, Askira/Uba, Marte, Chibok, Konduga, Dikwa and the most recent, Bama, have had young and old amongst them children, weak old men and women, killed in cold blood, their homes destroyed and thousands forced to flee, with some trekking over hurtful distances to become refugees within and outside Borno State.

“Our capital city of Maiduguri is today facing a heavy influx of refugees from the local government areas in Borno. Borno citizens have been forced to take refuge in parts of Gombe and Adamawa states mainly on account of man’s inhumanity to fellow man in the gratuitous name of religion. These acts are absolutely condemnable in the strongest of terms.”

However, the governor said in the history of Borno State since the 19th century, the latest insurgency was “not the first threat to our existence as a people. We had faced and survived threats in years past and we shall survive this, insha Allah.

“We are confident of victory through a reinforcement of our Armed Forces and the collective will of all of us, citizens, who are committed to defeating the Boko Haram scourge.”

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