No fewer than 40 Nigerian soldiers were killed and the whereabouts of 65 others were unknown in a deadly assault by suspected Boko Haram members in the sect’s stronghold in Borno state.
Various defence sources conveyed the information to PREMIUM TIMES, adding that the army authorities are outraged by the insurgents’ strike, and have ordered an investigation into the suspected operation blunder that gave the militants such an upper hand. The commanding officer of the unit that carried out the operation has now been removed from his post, officials say.
The casualty, one of the heaviest for the military in its campaign against the militant group in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, occurred along the Baga – Maiduguri road on Friday, September 13, 2013. Presumably it happened due to a ‘classic’ case operational and communication failure.
A detachment of soldiers under the 134 Battalion of the 12 Brigade under the Multi National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, stationed in Kangarwa village in Kukawa local government, had conducted a reconnaissance to gather intelligence around the area, during which they established the presence of previously unnoticed Boko Haram camps.
The soldiers returned to their base and filed a report recommending aerial bombardment of the area, preparatory for a ground operation by troops. But that plan was cancelled at the final minutes by an unnamed top official without formal communication to the more than 100 troops that had already advanced on the area. So the soldiers rushed to the terrorists’ stronghold without knowing that the aerial bombardment had been cancelled.
The soldiers were trapped in the ambush under heavy fire from the militants who had surrounded the area, leaving at least 40 soldiers killed. Some 65 others have remained missing. The insurgents were able to recover a huge cache of weapons from the deceased and run-away soldiers.
As with past failures that ended in bloodshed and heavy casualty against the military, authorities have struggled to place a lid on the incident.
But a top security source confirmed the incident and said the army headquarters have ordered an investigation.
The recent attack came less than two months after a similar miscalculation on August 4 which also resulted in a heavy casualty following a similar surprise attack by Boko Haram on a camp at Malam Fatori.