The Nigerian military launched heavy air bombardment on Bama, Borno State’s second most important city, Monday, after pulling off its troops as the town came under Boko Haram attack following hours of fierce fighting.
Residents and security officials said the town suddenly came under attack from the insurgents on Monday morning forcing the military to call in the airforce for a sustained air attack on the town, particularly around the military barracks there which the insurgents had pushed to take over.
Security sources said military commanders had withdrawn ground troops that earlier engaged the terrorists, to allow the use of sweeping air attacks.
The military had earlier warned residents to leave the town ahead of the clash Monday.
“But the insurgents seemed to have resorted to using a few of their members to create a detour (distraction) and make the aircrafts dissipate their bombs so that they would come attacking with a much larger force,” said the source.
Military sources told PREMIUM TIMES the aerial bombardment of suspected insurgents on Monday commences the gradual roll-out of full force against the sect by the Nigerian military.
“We were all along restrained because of the Chibok girls,” a top military source said. “But the time has now come to do something drastic. We cannot afford to allow a rag tag group to take over our country.”
Earlier Monday, local vigilante and security sources said about 70 Boko Haram terrorists were killed by soldiers as the insurgents attempted to storm the town and seize the barracks.
A top security official in Maiduguri confirmed the attack but did not give casualty figure or state which side suffered more damage.
The security official, who did not want to be named as he was not officially cleared to speak, said, “We are still on top of the situation and GOC had assured a beef up of troops from Maiduguri.”
A local vigilante personnel, Abbas Gava, said his colleagues in Bama had informed him that over 70 members of the Boko Haram terrorists group died in the first attack that took place in the early hours of Monday.
“They killed over 70 Boko Haram terrorists and injured about 30 of them,” he said.
The Defence Headquarters in Abuja said in Twitter post that the attack “is being repelled by the Nigerian troops”, but said casualty figures could not be confirmed yet.
“Everything necessary will be done to contain the terrorists,” the military tweeted.
PREMIUM TIMES had gathered from reliable sources in the military that the terrorists had planned to move into Maiduguri from Bama before their mission was aborted.