Multiple deaths have been reported after a rescue team dispatched to comb the area in the aftermath of the November 18 Boko Haram attack on Nigerian soldiers in Borno State came under insurgents fire on November 19, military sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The rescue, treatment and evacuation team was sent from Baga, Borno State, to Metele, home to the Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion that lost scores of soldiers on Sunday.
The rescue team members were selected from the Nigerian Army 7 Task Force Brigade stationed in Baga.
At least 118 soldiers were killed and 153 missing in the Sunday attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, according to the most recent finding by PREMIUM TIMES.
“While recovering the bodies within the Metele area, Boko Haram fighters launched another attack on the team,” a top military source told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday.
“Additional casualties were recorded including that of the head of the medical team and scores of others,” the source added.
The account of the source was confirmed by another military chief who was amongst those who coordinated the rescue efforts. The officer told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday Boko Haram appeared to have laid an ambush in anticipation of the rescue team’s arrival in Metele.
The leader of the rescue team was identified by military sources as Nsor, a major and physician. He was amongst the scores of rescuers killed during the attack, during which Boko Haram also stole military equipment.
About 152 officers were estimated to have taken part in the rescue efforts, although a military source said the figures could be higher because some troops from another base were asked to join the initial reinforcement from Baga.
Texas Chukwu, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, did not return requests for comments on Sunday. John Agim, his Defence Headquarters counterpart, said he has no information about what transpired in Metele.
“I do not have any information about the attack in Metele because I am on an assignment since one week ago. I have not returned yet,” Mr Agim said in a message to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday evening.
The army in its first reaction to the Sunday attack on Friday evening said reported casualty figures were untrue, although it did not provide its internal figures or details of how the attack occurred.
President Muhammadu Buhari commented on the attack on Saturday, vowing to ensure the end of the insurgency and as well as care for the soldiers deployed in the volatile North-East.
In a video circulated this weekend, Nigerian soldiers deployed in the war-ravaged North-East blamed obsolete equipment and pervasive corruption amongst top military brass for the massive losses in personnel and equipment which insurgents have been inflicting on the Nigerian military since their latest evil campaign of raiding bases began July.