About 29 troops of the Nigerian Army were killed in various encounters with the Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province fighters in the North-East between January and May 2019.
According to PUNCH, the figure is obtained from official records of the Nigerian Army Headquarters, Abuja, and from military sources, detailing insurgents’ attacks, especially on military bases in the region.
Despite efforts by Operation Lafiya Dole and Operation Yancin Tafki involving troops of Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon, Boko Haram’s affiliation with the ISWAP fighters seems to make them more daring in attacking military bases.
During the general elections, specifically February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the army confirmed an attack by the terrorists on its outpost in the Geidam area of Yobe State.
“A futile attack on a security outpost in Geidam general Area has been recorded. We don’t have any casualty,” the army spokesman, Col Sagir Musa, had said.
On January 23, the army recorded the first casualties when Boko Haram fighters, in a convoy of at least five gun trucks, attacked Geidam in Yobe State and killed eight soldiers.
During the attack, the insurgents attacked some security men attached to the Mai Idris Alooma Polytechnic in the community.
In February, there were failed attacks on military outposts with no recorded casualty.
In March, however, the terrorists intensified attacks on the Banki area of Borno State, with the 7 Division’s Deputy Director Public Relations, Col Ado Isa, confirming that the terrorists attempted to infiltrate the location of troops of the 152 Battalion on March 11.
On April 26, three soldiers were killed and scores feared missing after the Boko Haram terrorists attacked a Forward Operating Base in Mararrabar Kimba.
At the base were also deployed troops of the 254 Battalion and 25 Task Force Brigade. The army did not confirm losing soldiers in Mararrabar Kimba.
However, on May 5, the army confirmed that five soldiers were killed in an attack by the ISWAP fighters on a military base in the Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State.
Military sources claimed that in that incident, 15 soldiers were killed, while the insurgents also carted away some ammunition from the base. A captain and a lieutenant were reportedly among those killed.
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col Ezindu Idima, who confirmed the death of five soldiers, noted that the terrorists attacked Magumeri in search of food supplies.
Idima stated, “The criminals came in numbers to infiltrate the Magumeri village in order to loot food items and other valuables. The troops effectively thwarted the terrorists’ plan through their superior fire power.
“During the encounter, the troops exterminated scores of the insurgents and many escaped with gunshot injuries. Unfortunately, five soldiers paid the supreme price.”
In the last spate of attacks on May 13, the army confirmed the death of the Commanding Officer of 154 Task Force Battalion, Lt. Col Yusuf Aminu, and two soldiers along the Borgozo-Mauli Road in Borno State.
In its reaction, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, said it had taken a number of measures to reduce the casualties among troops fighting insurgency in the North-East.
The DHQ noted that the measures included Special Forces’ training with the assistance of foreign defence partners, counter-improvised explosive device capabilities, force protection drills, weapon systems for land, maritime and air troops, and provision of medical facilities.
The acting Director, Defence Information, Col Onyema Nwachukwu, said, “I cannot exactly put a figure to the number of casualties we have had since January 2019 but the sad thing about war is that there certainly will be casualties.
“The good thing, however, is that our gallant troops have successfully decimated the terrorists and pushed them to the fringes of the Lake Chad region. The troops have also largely curtailed their freedom of action compared to the situation before now.
“A lot has been done by the DHQ and the services to drastically limit causality of our troops in the face of asymmetric adversary. Troops fighting capability and efficiency have been shored up with in-theatre training in areas of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.’’
Nwachukwu added that some weapon systems for land, maritime and air troops were also acquired to give impetus to the troops’ counter-insurgency efforts.
“Medical facilities were operationalised within the theatre of operation and some special medical facilities, outside the theatre, to cater for troops who are evacuated from the theatre due to serious injuries.”