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Troops destroy Boko Haram camps in Sambisa Forest, retake Gwoza, Dikwa

By Mohammed Abubakar, Mathias Okwe, Karls Tsokar (Abuja), Odita Sunday (Lagos), Chuks Collins (Awka) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)
19 February 2015   |   9:43 pm
• Jonathan commissions four new warships in Lagos THERE may be no hiding place for Boko Haram terrorists soon as the multi-national military offensives succeed daily in flushing the insurgents from their hideouts and captured territories.   Troops of 7 Division of Nigerian Army, in a coordinated ground and aerial bombardments, yesterday cleared many terrorists…

B.-HARAM

• Jonathan commissions four new warships in Lagos

THERE may be no hiding place for Boko Haram terrorists soon as the multi-national military offensives succeed daily in flushing the insurgents from their hideouts and captured territories.

  Troops of 7 Division of Nigerian Army, in a coordinated ground and aerial bombardments, yesterday cleared many terrorists from their Sambisa Forest enclaves, including parts of Gwoza town that was captured by Boko Haram on August 6, 2014.

  According to a report by Reuters, Boko Haram members also suffered heavy casualties when Chadian troops pushed into Nigeria this week.

  The revelations came yesterday as President Goodluck Jonathan reiterated that the enhanced military operation in the Northeast would bring activities of the Boko Haram insurgents to an end.

  It was learnt that in flushing out the insurgents from Sambisa Forest, training camps and logistics dumps located in various parts of the forest were targeted and destroyed by the Nigerian troops in the early hours of yesterday.

  The Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said: “More terrorists died as the air campaign gets results in both Sambisa Forest and parts of Gwoza that was captured last August by terrorists.”

  On how the terrorists were flushed out, Olukolade, in the statement, said: “A concerted air campaign by the Nigerian Air Force is ongoing in furtherance of the mission to clear terrorists from all their enclaves.

  “The air strikes which today targeted the training camps and logistics dumps of the terrorists in Sambisa Forests and parts of Gwoza have been highly successful as it achieved the aims with required precision. The death of a large number of terrorists has been recorded while many others are also scampering all over the forest and out of the struck bases.  Details of casualty will be determined in subsequent phases of the operation.

  “Meanwhile, the strikes continue in other locations of the theatre heralding the advancement of troops and other elements of the mission.”

  Chad’s army said on Tuesday evening that they had seized control of the town of Dikwa, which is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of the Nigerian border town of Gamboru.

  The offensive deep inside Nigerian territory was a first and suggested a strategy to tackle other rebel-controlled areas in the northeastern Borno State, which is the group’s stronghold.

  The Chadians are part of a four-country coalition mounting a regional fight-back against the insurgents.

  “Chadian soldiers took over Dikwa from Boko Haram after heavy fighting on Tuesday,” Bababura Diwa, who lives in the town, said by telephone from Fotokol, across the border in northern Cameroon.

  Diwa said that the Chadians came from Gamboru, which they previously recaptured, with heavy artillery power and overpowered a group of militants at Lomani village, 15 kilometres from Dikwa.

  “When they came into Dikwa, there was intense fighting but at last they subdued the Boko Haram fighters,” he added.

  “They killed many of them, including Abu Ashshe, their commander who was notorious for seizing cattle in the area. I used the opportunity provided by the presence of the Chadian troops to leave the town. I was afraid to leave when Boko Haram took over the town for fear of being branded a traitor and killed.”

  Diwa’s account was backed up by several other residents, who took advantage of the Chadian advance to flee the ancient town, which is near Boko Haram’s makeshift camps in the Sambisa Forest.

  Jidda Saleh, another resident, said that Chadian troops launched heavy aerial and ground attacks on the Kala-Balge area, particularly on Nduwu village, which he said was a “major Boko Haram stronghold”.

  “The whole village was bombarded and it is obvious Boko Haram suffered heavy casualties from the aerial attack. Ground troops moved in later,” he added.

  “Meleri, which has a huge Boko Haram concentration, was also bombed by Chadian military jets and then taken over by ground troops.

  “By the time we left, we learnt the Chadian soldiers were on their way to Kushimori village where Boko Haram keep the livestock they seized from people.

  “They have kept thousands of livestock there. They sank boreholes and recruited people to rear the animals for them”.

  Algoni Wal-Amire, another Kala-Balge resident, welcomed the offensive.

  “Living under Boko Haram was like living in a minefield. You are always afraid your next step could be your last. I thank God I’m now safe from them,” he said.

  President Jonathan noted that with the present onslaught against the members of the notorious sect, the atmosphere in the Northeast would be conducive for elections by March 28, 2015.

  Speaking at the Nigerian Navy Dockyard Limited, Victoria Island, Lagos, during the official commissioning of four new warships acquired for the Nigerian Navy to boost the assault against oil thieves and sea pirates in the nation’s territorial waters, the President said that the government would ensure that elections were conducted in all parts of the country, including areas currently seized by the insurgents.

  “We will leave no stone unturned to improve the capacity of the Nigerian Armed Forces. We have improved the technical capacity of the army, and we are working in harmony with the service chiefs to ensure that the country does not disintegrate,” he added.

  Jonathan further assured Nigerians that the 2015 general elections must hold on scheduled dates, stressing that operations of the terrorist group would not in anyway affect elections.

  His words: “The capacity of the military to fight the insurgents is being increased and officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces are doing well to ensure that the situation in the Northeast is brought under control. This is in line with my transformation agenda and the vision of Nigeria becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020.”

  Meanwhile, support for the war against Boko Haram insurgents has received a boost with the United States of America and Islamic Kingdom of Qatar in the Middle East donating the sum of $2 million each to assist Nigeria in the education and rehabilitation needs of the children and schools in the war ravaged states of the Northeast.

  In particular, the U.S. government yesterday reaffirmed Washington’s preparedness not to abandon Nigeria in her present time of need as she battles Boko Haram, saying the government and people of America would stand by Nigeria to assist her combat the radical militants who are debarring children from going to school.

  According to the U.S. envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador James J Entwistle: “U.S. stands with Nigeria in her struggle against terror and this donation is a very important element of that fight because Nigeria’s children who have been affected by the insurgency do not need to see their hopes for education sacrificed.”

  Speaking yesterday in Abuja at a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony for the implementation of the U.S. donation, Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that a lot of activities had been undertaken since the launch of the Safe School Initiative last year. At the ceremony were the U.S. Envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador James F. Entwistle, the USAID Nigerian Mission Director, Michael Harvey and the UNDP Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Daouda Toure, who were all signatories to the donation transfer agreement.

  Meanwhile, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) has commended the nation’s military and other security agencies for their on-going exploits against the insurgents. 

  This commendation was made yesterday by the group’s Director of Operation who is also a member of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s Campaign Council, Benchuks Nwosu, during an interactive session with journalists in Awka.

  Nwosu pointed out that the military had demonstrated great love and patriotism for their country by holding their own in the face of the raging battle with the faceless insurgents who, according to him, employ a guerrilla warfare approach.

  The TAN’s director pointed out that war against terrorism was usually a complex matter, unlike the normal conventional war where the enemies were clearly known and identifiable.

  He lamented that some ill-informed and unpatriotic politicians had reduced the issue to what could be discussed on the pages of newspapers, radio and television stations, unfortunately heaping blames of both the actual combat challenges and drawback on the Presidency.

  “In the process, the egoist politicians most of whom appeared to be working hands-in-glove with the insurgents shamelessly call the nation’s security agencies all manner of unprintable names contrary to what is obtainable in other climes. They appear to have forgotten that the insurgents publicly named some of these shameless persons as their spokespersons.”