At least 30 Nigerian soldiers died in combat with Boko Haram jihadists who overran a military base in Zari near the border with Niger, two military sources told AFP on Saturday.
Scores of jihadists in trucks stormed the base at Zari village in northern Borno state late Thursday and briefly seized it after a fierce battle, they said.
“They came in large numbers in trucks and carrying heavy weapons and engaged soldiers in a battle that lasted for an hour,” a military officer told AFP.
“We lost at least 30 men,” the officer said, adding that the attack took place around 4pm.
“They overwhelmed the troops who were forced to temporarily withdraw before reinforcements arrived,” said the officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak.
The militants took weapons and military equipment before they were pushed out of the base by troops with aerial support, said a second military source who gave a similar death toll.
The militants were pursued and bombarded by a fighter jet, said the military sources.
“The terrorists also suffered heavy casualty from the bombardment”, one of the military officers said.
The Director, Nigerian Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu could not be reached for comment on Saturday as he did not respond to phone calls.
Insurgents have intensified attacks on military targets in recent months in an attempt to undermine repeated claims by the military that Boko Haram had been defeated.
The jihadists were believed to have attacked the base from the nearby Garunda village, where 17 troops were killed and 14 injured in an attack on another military base last month, the sources said.
AFP reported that the military in a statement late Friday confirmed troops fought Boko Haram insurgents but were silent on the casualties.
On July 14, Boko Haram militants overran a military base in Jilli village, in neighbouring Yobe state when dozens of troops were said to have been killed, wounded or missing.