The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has recaptured Malam Fatori, a border town on the shores of Lake Chad, from Boko Haram after a fierce battle, the military said yesterday.
However, a statement purportedly posted online by the West African arm of the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed the insurgents killed 40 soldiers.
A statement issued by the spokesman of the Nigerian Army Col. Sani Usman said the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole fought off the terrorists with the aid of aerial support from the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) fighter jets, as they came out reinforced around the border communities with Niger Republic.
Eventually, according to the statement, the troops withdrew to a better position to ward off further attacks.
Usman said as part of Operation Gama Aiki, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole and the regional coalition force captured Mallam Fatori in northernmost part of Borno State after a fierce battle closely covered by air operations. But the terrorists reinforced around the border with Niger Republic while the troops were consolidating on the success.
“The troops killed several of the Boko Haram terrorists in the resulting encounter and subsequently had to withdraw to a vantage position. The operation is continuing,” the Army statement said.
The online statement credited to Boko Haram said the terror group claimed its fighters, which it dubbed “the cavalry of the caliphate,” attacked the regional force.
“This offensive led to the death of more than 40 soldiers and left tens of others injured,” it said in the online statement.
Malam Fatori, in Borno State, was liberated in March last year as part of a regional counter-offensive against the Islamists, who had captured swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria in 2014.
But fighters from Boko Haram, which is affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) group and now calls itself Islamic State West Africa province, reoccupied the town after troops left.
Meanwhile, the army has freed more than two million people held captive by the Boko Haram sect, following a series of co-ordinated attacks and clearance operations conducted against the terrorists’ camps.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at a civil society conference on security and military relations to commemorate the 2016 United Nations (UN) World Peace Day, said the Nigerian Army in synergy with other sister-services and agencies have also liberated captured territories and rescued over 40,000 civilians and arrested many suspects.
Buratai, represented by Maj.-Gen. Peter Dojie, said: “In the process, many Boko Haram terrorists’ camps, ammunition dumps, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), weapon manufacturing factories, weapons and logistics were destroyed by our gallant troops in Bama, Konduga, Mubi, parts of Sambisa Forest and Gwoza, among others.
“Locals in the affected areas can now sleep with their two eyes closed and with utmost confidence of government’s presence to protect and secure them against the highly-dreaded terrorists group.”
And amid rife allegations of fraud at the camps of Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs), the management of NOIPolls has enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to pay an unscheduled visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, to assess the situation.
The call followed reported cases of diversion of funds and relief materials by government officials.