Nigerian Military Retreat From Sambisa Forest Over Landmines

Reports indicate that Nigerian soldiers have retreated from the last known Boko stronghold, Sambisa forest, where they said was booby-trapped after a soldier and three vigilante members were killed by a landmine.

According to Reuters, a vigilante and security source both confirmed the pullback from the forest, a day after an offensive aimed at rooting out the insurgents.
“The soldiers have retreated to Bama because of mines. They had been on the road but that made them vulnerable, so they moved to the bush but there are mines planted there (too),” one soldier, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
However, military sources said that the troops remain undeterred and have deployed mine sweepers in the forest to rid the area of deadly mines, just at the Nigerian Air Force has stepped air raids to stop Boko Haram insurgents from amassing.
The Sambisa forest, a former colonial game reserve, is about 100 km (60 miles) from the village of Chibok, from where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 secondary school girls a year ago.
Intelligence officials believed they were being held in the forest, but US reconnaissance drones failed to locate them.
“Three of our boys were killed by a landmine as we progressed into Sambisa. We've suspended going farther,” Muhammad Monguno, a member of a pro-government vigilante, told Reuters.
A Chadian military source said a joint military operation involving armies from Niger and Cameroun was expected to begin to encircle the Sambisa forest next week. Chadians will go in from the Camerounian border where they have been massing troops.
Over the last six years, Boko Haram have killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds in a battle to establish an Islamic caliphate.

But as the multinational troops restrategise on the onslaught against the Islamist sect in Sambisa, AFP reported on Thursday that Boko Haram fighters have amassed in the forest.
“Boko Haram are in large numbers in Sambisa,” said the vigilante, who requested anonymity for security reasons, as he was part of the operation. “All their fighters who were pushed out of Bama, Dikwa, Gwoza and Damboa (in Borno State) all moved to Boko Haram camps in Sambisa,” he added.
Details of the offensive came as a series of photographs circulated on social media accounts linked to the Islamic State group of heavily armed fighters, purportedly from Boko Haram.
No independent verification was possible but some of the accounts said the images were released under the name “The Islamic State in West Africa”.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to IS group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in March. The Middle Eastern militants responded by urging Muslims to support the rebels in Nigeria.
A four-nation military operation launched in February involving Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon has recaptured swathes of territories previously held by Boko Haram in three northeast states.
Last week, Nigeria’s National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki said troops would storm the vast Sambisa forest by the handover of power to incoming president Muhammadu Buhari on May 29.
On Wednesday, the military said an offensive was under way “in some forest locations”, claiming to have killed a senior commander as well as a number of militants who attacked a patrol.

“The operations especially in forest locations are progressing in defiance of obstacles and landmines emplaced by the terrorists,” defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a statement.

But the vigilante said progress over the last three days had been severely hindered. “Boko Haram have buried landmines all over the routes leading to their camps in the forest, which is no doubt a huge obstacle retarding the military offensive against them,” he said.

Troops were forced to turn back just five kilometres (three miles) from Boko Haram’s main camp because of landmines. One soldier and three vigilantes were killed when their vehicle hit a mine, he said.
“There are no soldiers in Sambisa right now. We all returned to Bama after the horrifying experience of manoeuvring through minefields,” he added.

Despite the setback, Olukolade, was still hopeful about the troops’ chances, when he said the insurgents had run out of arms and ammunition.
He told journalists in Abuja yesterday that unlike the past when members of the sect brandished dangerous weapons, they now go about with bows and arrows.

“The Boko Haram terrorists have run out of arms and ammunition because the usual supplies they get are not forthcoming,” he said.
“They now have only bow and arrows, machetes, daggers and other local weapons.
“You can find more than 500 of them with only few having rifles and even when one or two of them have rifles, they have no ammunition.
“I am optimistic that the military will succeed in killing many of these insurgents who have been terrorising residents for the past three years.”


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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