Indications emerged weekend that the Nigerian military has deployed Special Forces to the Northeastern part of the country to reinforce the numbers of troops on ground in an effort to curtail the recent upsurge of insurgent activities of the Boko Haram group.
Within the past few weeks the activities of the insurgents have raised concerns about the assurances from the federal government that Boko Haram has been degraded and their remnants would soon be flushed out from the North east.
However, the group in a couple of weeks has increased its tempo of attacks and suicide bombings within and outside Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, killings scores of people.
The latest attack by insurgents is the ambush laid on Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) workers and geologists from the University on Maiduguri who are working on oil exploration activities in the Chad Basin.
Prior to this attack on NNPC workers, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, gave troops and commanders of the operation Lafiya Dole 40 days ultimatum within which to produce, dead or alive, Malam Shekau who is the leader of the Boko Haram insurgent group.
The Nation learnt at the weekend that special attention is now focus on the northeast with a view to establish reasons behind the current spate of attacks and suicide bombings resulting in the deaths of lots of people.
Besides the troops on ground, more soldiers are being ordered to the flash points of the insurgents, while the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) at the weekend deployed Special Forces and bomb detection cameras and other equipment into the northeast for reinforcement.
A statement from the Director of Public Relations and Information (NAF) Air Commodore, Olatokunbo Adesanya hinted “the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has introduced additional measures aimed at increasing its operational capability in the ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the North East”.
The NAF statement reads: “The measures include the deployment of additional NAF Special Forces and personnel of the Regiment Specialty to reinforce Base security and also fight alongside the Nigerian Army troops and NAF Special Forces that were already on ground.
“In addition, the NAF has deployed thermal imaging cameras aimed at adding more value to the current efforts at detecting and checkmating the activities of suicide bombers before they carry out their suicide missions.
” This follows the spate of suicide bombings that have been recently recorded in Maiduguri. The thermal imaging camera uses infrared and reads temperature differences up to an appreciable distance away and can identify a person at an acceptable distance. The cameras, which are mounted on NAF aircraft, can also penetrate obscurants such as smoke, fog and haze.
“The NAF, in recent times, has stepped up its counterinsurgency operations to further decimate the ability of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in the North East. The focus has largely been the conduct of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions as well as interdiction missions on identified BHT targets.
“This is in addition to range of other air operations and humanitarian intervention schemes aimed at winning the heart and minds of the populace in the conflict areas. The NAF remains appreciative of the support it is enjoying from Nigerians in its efforts at putting an end to the madness in the North East Geopolitical Zone of our country.
Meanwhile, the army authority said it regretted the error in the information it provided earlier on the ambush and rescue of NNPC workers.
Spokesperson for the Army, Brig. General Sani Usman, described the incident as unfortunate and regrettable.
In a statement, General Usman said most regrettable was his earlier statement about the rescue of the NNPC staff.
He said: “The incident of 25th July 2017 where some Boko Haram Terrorists ambushed our troops including members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) escorting some staff of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as that of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) on oil exploration in Borno Yesu District of Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno state is unfortunate and highly regrettable.
” Most regrettable also is my earlier release on the said incident about the rescue of all NNPC Staff. The error in the statement was not deliberate. The Nigerian Army in this present dispensation is reputed for timely dissemination of information on activities of our troops in all theatre of operations.
” We have strived to keep the public informed on our activities with no intention of distorting any fact. Our troops have doubled efforts in the pursuit of the Boko Haram terrorists while search and rescue is still on-going to secure the safe return of the remaining civilians.
” So far the search and rescue team has recovered additional bodies of 5 soldiers, 11 Civilian JTF and 5 members of the exploration team. Contrary to reports in some media, 6 members of exploration team out of 12 that went out are still missing, while one of the NNPC staff returned to base alive.
“On the other hand, our pursuit team also recovered 2 of our own Gun trucks and an additional Toyota Buffalo Gun truck from the insurgents. In addition, the team also made the following recoveries; 4 Rocket Propelled Grenade Bombs, 4 Rocket Propelled Grenade chargers, 6 AK-47 rifles, 1 Anti-Aircraft Gun, 1 General Purpose Machine Gun,1 Anti-Aircraft Gun Barrel, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube, 4 Dane Guns, 8 Tyres and 2 Tyre Rims.
“Other items recovered include 1 Pumping Machine, 2 Tyre Jacks, 1 Super Battery, 5 Reflective Jackets, 3 Toyota Hilux, 4 Jerry cans filled with PMS, 1 Motorola Radio, 1 Geographical Positioning System (GPS), 21 empty Jerry cans, 2 Shovels and 3 Food Coolers. Troops also recovered 122 rounds of PKM ammunition, 213 rounds of 7.62mm NATO ammunition, 1255 Anti-Aircraft Guns ammunition, 4 boxes of API 12.7mm ammunition, 1 AK-47 Rifle Magazine, a Digger, 2 Bows and 13 Arrows, 2 LLG Bombs, assorted drugs and assorted working tools.
“The Nigerian Army condoles with the families of all that lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident. Search and rescue efforts are on-going. We are counting on the goodwill and support of the populace in volunteering valuable information that could help in the search and rescue operation.
“What the remnants of the Boko Haram terrorists are doing are pure criminal activities of kidnapping to gain funds. This has been noted and will be jointly addressed in conjunction with other security services.
“The Nigerian Army remains resolute in the fight against terrorism and not relent in its effort to safe guard lives of citizens , properties and the territorial integrity of the country”.