It was yet another tale of sorrow on Thursday as suspected members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, abducted about 14 women and two girls in Sabongari village, Madagali Local Government of Adamawa State.
The incident occurred as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosed that plans were being mapped out for the final onslaught to regain total control of the North East, particularly Bornu State where the insurgents had inflicted maximum casualty on the populace.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Adamawa State Command, DSP Othman Abubakar, who confirmed the abduction of the women, said that on learning about the development, the command sent a detachment of police officers to the affected area, adding that his men were working round the clock to track down the abductors.
Also confirming the incident, the member representing Michika/Madagali Federal Constituency, Mr. Adamu Kamale, said “I just received the shocking news that about 16 women have been abducted by Boko Haram.
“We have been witnessing pockets of attacks contrary to the belief that security has been fully restored in the area. As a member of National Assembly, I have been calling for the deployment of security personnel but to no avail, as the government seems to have relegated our concerns to the background.”
A security source told Thisday yesterday that the women were abducted on Wednesday by gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram, in a forest near Sabongari while they were fetching fire woods.
The source said the women abducted were said to be in company of two local vigilante operatives who were overwhelmed by the insurgents.
Another source, who simply identified himself as Mallam Ahmadu, said that two out of the women abducted managed to escape from their abductors.
He said the insurgents had a field day carting away the women when their escorts ran away for fear of their lives.
The source said, “The two local vigilante men took to their heels when they sighted the gunmen who were armed to the teeth.
“They left the women to their fate as the gunmen were left unchallenged to abduct the said women,”
Meanwhile, facts have emerged on why the Nigerian military has not been able to clear the remnants of Boko Haram from their stronghold, Sambisa-Allargano forest axis, with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosing that plans are being mapped out for the final onslaught to regain total control of the area.
THISDAY investigations revealed that despite confining the terrorists to the forest and few other enclaves close to the contiguous borders with Chad and Niger Republic, the Nigerian military has found it difficult to take total control of the area.
Buratai has, however, said that the large size of the forest and difficult terrain requires cautious planning and intelligence to clear out the terrorists from the area.
The Army Chief while fielding questions from journalists at the 82 Division, Nigerian Army Headquarters, Enugu last week, admitted that the military were deep inside the forest but that the deployments to recapture the area were being done in phases.
He said: “We are inside Sambisa right now but the terrain is such that it requires us to plan our movements inside the area, we cannot conduct ourselves disorderly.
“We need intelligence and careful planning to conduct that phase of our operation inside Sambisa, it is not just force, we are being careful, and so we need more of intelligence and careful planning. But we are working carefully and making progress in collaboration with other sister agencies.”
The Sambisa and Allargano Forest, which is a forest encompassing more than four Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Borno State, northeast Nigeria, especially the mountainous region of Gwoza near the Cameroon border, has been used as both shelter, logistic, Command and Control centre of the Boko Haram terrorists.
The infamous forest, which is in the southwestern part of Chad Basin National Park, about 60 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri, with an area of 60,000 square kilometres has been under constant military raids and bombardment to drive away the terrorists since 2015.
However, despite much success, the military are yet to rid the area of the terrorists because of the vast land mass, mines and inadequate equipment.
“Do you know how large Sambisa forest is? It is as big as Enugu State and bigger than some two states (in the South) combined. So when you hear about Sambisa forest, it should be with this understanding. Already we are inside the forest and very soon the remaining terrorists would be cleared,” Buratai noted.
In the same vein, intelligence and military sources who spoke to THISDAY noted that the whole areas are heavily mined and the available mine-sweepers are not enough to clear the operational area for the ground troops to move in.
Investigation revealed that the aerial bombardment are not usually complemented by ground troops advancement because of the challenges of the terrain, deadly land mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
In addition, a senior military source also noted the lack of adequate surveillance, equipment, aircraft and coordination between the air and ground forces.
“The issue is that despite the aerial onslaught by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), the ground forces cannot immediately follow up because of the difficult and heavily mined terrain,” a senior NAF personnel said.
“The challenge also has to do with inadequate surveillance from the Air Force because the area is so large. But the major issue is that landmines still constitute a major problem for our troops, especially to comb Sambisa forest for effective mop up and take out Boko Haram. However, the positive news is that serious efforts are being made to address the issue as quickly as possible,” another military source said.
Also, these challenges were corroborated by a soldier in the battlefield inside the Sambisa-Allargano forest, saying that land mines, IEDs and weather condition constitute a major problem for their mission to quickly complete the job.
The soldier gave account of how the troops are risking their lives to ensure that the area is completely liberated, but are somehow limited by the Boko Haram land-mines and IEDs death-traps.
Speaking further, the military source also revealed that the troops have made tremendous inroads and successes, capturing several bases from the terrorists deep inside the forests.
“My brother, it is not a small job. Even the mine sweepers they brought could only do as much because as am talking to you, there are a lot of mines. The mines, IEDs are much and slowing the process. What these terrorists planted there was so much and the military don’t have enough equipment like the mine sweepers to clear them. So those of us operating here are doing it at great risk.
In a related development, the Nigerian military has against the backdrop of recent video purportedly released by the eccentric leader of Boko Haram terrorists, vowed not to spare any terrorists remnants from the ongoing onslaught against their safe havens in the North East.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Rabe Abubakar in a statement yesterday, said that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) noticed “the online video clips purportedly released by the Boko Haram Terrorists Leader, Abubakar Shekau, or his replica in Arabic and Hausa languages showing remorse and asking for forgiveness”.
He added, “The DHQ wishes to state emphatically that not minding the contents of the video clips, the Armed Forces of Nigeria would continue to fight in order to consolidate the successes recorded so far and assuring Nigerians that no inch of the Nigerian territory would be allowed to be bastardized by any force of darkness again.”
Abubakar assured the members of the public “that all captives under the cover of the Boko Haram terrorists would regain their freedom with the ongoing military’s final offensive against the terrorists”. (Thisday)