At least one Nigerian army officer and 17 soldiers died in battle on Sunday after their base came under sudden but vicious attack by Boko Haram terrorists, military insiders familiar with the matter have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The army confirmed the attack on Monday but said only one officer and six soldiers were killed. The army also said its officials, including reinforcements, successfully repelled the attack.
Top military sources, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the army’s public statement deliberately underplayed the attack and that it is not a true reflection of what transpired.
The Nigerian army, like many of the country’s other security agencies, is known for understating casualties and the true situation of events as the country continues to grapple with multiple security challenges.
Our sources said that apart from those killed, no fewer than 43 other soldiers were seriously injured while 50 other personnel remained missing as of Monday morning.
The affected military base, the headquarters of 156 Task Force Battalion in Mainok, was virtually completely destroyed as the Boko Haram terrorists carted away arms and ammunition, burning everything in sight.
Mainok is about 60 kilometres west of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
According to gory pictures of the incident seen by this newspaper, some of the soldiers were attacked with machetes while others were seen with gunshot injuries.
The commanding officer of the battalion, a lieutenant colonel (name withheld), is among the dead.
Over 50 personnel who survived the battle made their way on foot to the nearby Army Super Camp 4. An unknown number of others are believed to remain trapped in bushes.
The casualty figure for the Boko Haram terrorists remained unknown on Monday but the army said “scores of Boko Haram terrorists were neutralized with their body part littering the area and a number of their gun trucks destroyed.”
The Boko Haram Attack
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the terrorists sneaked into the camp undetected and caught the troops by surprise.
They were armed with sophisticated weapons including two Mine-Resistant Anti-Personnel Vehicles and a Scorpion Armoured Personnel Carrier.
How the terrorists entered the facility undetected and unchallenged remain a mystery to many. But one source said they probably worked on leaked intelligence by trailing a convoy of officials from the 81 Division in Maiduguri who were visiting the base.
“One surprising thing is that the BHT (Boko Haram Terrorists) succeeded in entering the location as per friendly forces without any contact,” one source said. “They then opened fire. Within a short while, they overran the base.”
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that when the battle became intense, reinforcements were thrown in by authorities from Army Super Camp 4 but severe damage had already been done to both men and equipment of the battalion.
In fact, the two Mine-Resistant Anti-Personnel Vehicles belonging to 81 Division area of responsibility, which got caught in the gunfire, are yet to be recovered.
The attack on the military base comes few days after the terrorists attacked Geidam, the hometown of acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba.
The attack on Geidam lasted over 24 hours while troops battled to regain the town.
Not The First Attack on Mainok
Sunday’s attack on Mainok is the second in about a year. The first was in January last year when the terrorists attacked and killed seven soldiers and an army officer.
Just like the latest attack, the terrorists camouflaged in a police vehicle and approached a military checkpoint before opening fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench outside Mainok village.
Two gun trucks and three anti-aircraft equipment could not be accounted for following that attack.
Groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province have terrorised Nigeria’s North-east geopolitical zone for more than a decade.
This has led to the death of thousands of soldiers and civilians and has displaced thousands of residents.
Despite repeated attacks on troops and vulnerable citizens, the government has continued to claim that the terrorists have been defeated.
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