The story broke and as expected it caused a storm on both official and social media.
The media had been awash with news that about 100 Nigerian soldiers were missing after Boko Haram attacks in the epicenter of the battle.
It all started with a Premium Times report that went like this… At least 105 soldiers of the 157 Battalion, including their commanding officer, are feared missing after they came under intense attack from Boko Haram insurgents at Gudunbali, Borno State, on Wednesday, military sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
According to one of our sources, the terrorists also captured a T-72 tank as well as several artillery weapons from the unit.
“Gudunbali was attacked this morning and some weapons were captured from the battalion. Two officers and 105 soldiers are still missing,” our source said
Another source however said the T-72 tank was recovered after a prolonged fight with Boko Haram insurgents. The gunner and tank commander were injured in the process, he said.
Also reportedly captured by the insurgents were eight vehicles, a truck loaded with 60,000 rounds of AA ammunition and three artillery pieces.
According to a source, the military has been unable to completely clear the insurgents from Baga and nearby towns due to inadequate equipment.
Boko Haram carried out a series of mass killings in Baga between January 3 and January 7, 2015, after the army headquarters there was sacked by the insurgents.
Although the military later liberated the town, soldiers stationed in the area have come under constant attacks from the insurgents.
The attacks on the military came on the heels of the suicide attacks on Yola and Kano respectively.
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, the spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Sani Usman, a colonel, directed enquiries on the matter to officials of 7 Division, Maiduguri.
But the spokesperson of the Army’s 7 Division,Tukur Gusau, also wouldn’t comment on the matter, saying the commander of the division would hold a press conference on the issue
Well it has been reported that the Nigerian Army denies losing 105 officers to Boko Haram.
Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai has waved aside reports that about 105 soldiers prosecuting the war against Boko Haram terrorists met their untimely death when they failed to return in a bid to annihilate the terrorists in the North East.
General Buratai in a telephone conversation with Vanguard said, “It is not true that our soldiers are missing. The soldiers went on a mission for the Nigerian nation and they have since returned and joined their Battalions”.
The confident Chief of Army Staff said that insinuation is a figment of imagination of the authors of the story.
But the online publication is insisting on its story. It maintains that Nigerian Army confirms PREMIUM TIMES story on deadly gun battle that left several Nigerian soldiers missing
According to its version of the story, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Army, Col. Sani Usman, who had earlier said enquiries on the matter should be directed to officials of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, called its reporter after the story was published to confirm the incident.
“I want to confirm the incidence at Gudunbali but the details you provided were not correct, and Baga has never been attacked,” Col. Usman said on telephone.
“The unit attacked is within the area of responsibility of the MNJTF and troops are now organising to counter the attack,” he said.
He said the Theatre Command of the 7 Division would provide the details of the attack during a press conference arranged later today in Maiduguri.
Mr. Usman however did not give any details to counter our account of the incident.
The theatre commander of the counterinsurgency operation, “Operation Lafiya Dole”, Yushau Abubakar, also sounded evasive during a press conference in Maiduguri on the missing soldiers after the deadly clash.
Mr. Abubakar, a major general, neither gave details of the casualty profile nor categorically stated whether soldiers were missing.
“Our troops were attacked in Gudumbali where we dislodged the Boko Haram there. We had an attack and we are sorting it out. But I have not heard anything relating to what is being reported in the media.
“I have spoken with the CO (Commanding Officer) there even this morning and I have not heard anything of such from him! Yes we went to Gudumbali and we were attacked and we repelled them and we are currently sorting out the situation. In war anything can happen and the operation is ongoing,” the commander said.
Well, I must say, these responses neither clearly confirm nor deny that soldiers are missing.
Be that as it may, victories have been achieved…
The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, on Thursday said the air component operation of “Operation Lafiya Dole” hit a “mass gathering” of Boko Haram terrorists at Wulge area of Borno State.
The air component commander of the theatre operation, “Operation Lafiya Dole”, Isiaka Amao, said this while briefing journalists in Maiduguri on Thursday.
Mr. Amao said “Reports received after the strike was that it was a huge success as many terrorists were killed,”.
He said NAF also sighted and neutralised terrorists’ vehicles in Kunshe town.
The commander also said NAF destroyed Boko Haram’s logistics, vehicle workshop and a weapon storage facility after successful interdiction missions on their Sambisa forest hideout.
Air Commodore Amao said NAF also destroyed a bomb-making factory in the forest.
“The air component has continued to intensify its air effort in support of the ground troops. In October, over 40 interdiction missions with over 80 per cent success were carried out.”
“We have in the month degraded the terrorists’ logistics in the Sambisa forest,” he said.
Mr. Amao said the air force also destroyed two suspected terrorists’ camps in the forest and added that continued air strikes have significantly degraded the capabilities of the terrorists.
Likewise, two terrorist hideouts in Sambisa were destroyed.
Mr. Amao, however, announced that NAF lost one of its pilots, Ebitimi Owei, during the month.
“On a sad note, we lost a colleague, Flight Lt. Ebitimi Owei and a platform during one of the missions. May his gentle soul rest in peace,” he said.
Mr. Amao said the death of Mr. Owei would not affect the morale of officers engaged in the operation.
He said NAF also intercepted and destroyed a boat carrying fuel to the terrorists along Nigeria-Cameroon border.
“Other armed missions were carried out in Geidam, Gamboru, Ngala, Mafa, Kirenowa and Banki towns, among others.
“These missions were aimed at identifying and destroying opportunity targets and denying terrorists freedom of action,” the commander said.