Two Air Force Beechcraft planes yesterday flew military officers, government officials and leaders of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners on a surveillance of the Sambisa forest – the former stronghold of the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Aboard were BBOG members former Minister of Education Oby Ezekwezili, coordinator Aisha Yesufu and Dr. Manasseh Allen.
On the flight were Minister of Defence Brig.-Gen. Dan Alli (retd.) Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Information Minister Lai Mohammed …
BBOG leaders made the trip after declining to do so and giving the government conditions which were rejected.
On Sunday night, the BBOG wrote to Mohammed on its decision to join the surveillance.
The contingent was flown to Yola, the Adamawa State capital, from Abuja on an air transport plane Hercules C-130 before the surveillance flight.
They returned from the trip at about 6pm. Another team, comprising of journalists, were on night surveillance.
Also yesterday, troops discovered a mass grave where insurgents who escaped with injuries during a battle with soldiers, but later died, were buried.
To Gen. Alli, the capture of Camp Zairo in Sambisa forest is “end of Mission” and not the end of the campaign against Boko Haram.
The minister spoke in Yola at the Command Centre of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) during a briefing for members of the BBOG team.
The BBOG group had been invited by Mohammed on an operational visit to Sambisa forest to have a first- hand view of how the military had been fighting the war on insurgency and the efforts to rescue the abducted Chibok girls.
The minister was responding to questions from Ms. Ezekwezili on why the military was still conducting operations in Sambisa when it claimed to have captured it.
“Camp Zairo is the spiritual headquarters of Boko Haram. It doesn’t mean when you capture that all of them will disappear, but it is significant because it was thought that the place was impregnable.
”Capturing Camp Zairo is the end of the mission to capture the place; we are not saying the campaign is over but we have dominated Camp Zairo.” the Minister said.
Leading the briefing, the Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command, Air Vice Marshal, Nurudeen Balogun, said NAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions over Sambisa forest revealed women and children trying to flee Boko Haram.
Also at the briefing was the Chief of the Air Staff.
“We have intensified our ISR to ensure displaced Boko Haram members do not regroup. Since January 1 to 15, 2017, we have flown a number of sorties and there have been some sightings of abductees,” Balogun said.'
He recalled that on January 7, some women and children were seen fleeing from a Boko Haram hideout near Dure village, Njimia, Tumbun Rego, Arege, Dogon Chuku and Yuwe villages.
“On January 8th, our Mi-17 aircraft picked up eight women and 11 children from a location close to Dure village. The women were taken to Maiduguri airbase and thereafter to the air force hospital for medical check-up.”
CAS Sadique Abubakar said the rescue of the Chibok girls and other abductees is one of the major aims of the NAF. He said the NAF has procured four aircraft dedicated to ISR and is working on the fifth one.
“Until 2015, we had only one aircraft doing ISR, but now we have four and about to fit one of the most sophisticated cameras into the fifth.
“We want you to know that we are careful not to bomb people who have no business fighting us. If we are fighting Boko Haram because they are killing people, we can’t go on and do the same. There are times when the pilots would return to base with their bombs because they sighted women and children.
“I am glad you are here, you will go on board with us and see how much our personnel have put in this. Sometimes they leave by midnight and don’t come back until 4:am just looking for all abductees and the Chibok girls,” Air Marshal Abubakar said.