LIVE PRESS BRIEFING ON ACTIVITIES OF OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE BY MAJOR GENERAL ROGERS NICHOLAS THEATRE COMMANDER ON WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2018
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
1. Over the past one and a half months, our troops have remained resilient, dauntless and focused on the Counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in the North East. A review of the activities within this period indicates that Boko Haram Terrorists are in disarray having suffered defeat in the Sambisa forest and are therefore desperate for reckoning. This press briefing is intended to bring you up to date on troops’ operational activities covering from mid December 2017 to mid February 2018.
TROOPS’ OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES
2.The period under review has been characterised by heavy artillery and aerial bombardments culminating in a series of ground offensives to clear identified Boko Haram enclaves in the Islands of the Lake Chad, also known as the “Tumbus” and Camp Zairo in the Sambisa. In these operations, many insurgents have been killed, others have fled for safety, while some others surrendered to our troops and allies in the Multinational Joint Task Force. Many other insurgents who escaped from the onslaught also took advantage of the AMNESTY offered by the Nigerien Government to surrender to Nigerien Defence Forces. Close air support provided by the Air Task Force and Artillery bombardments were further reinforced by ground troops with blocking forces that denied the insurgents freedom of action and access to logistics, thereby canalizing them to Camp Zairo in the Sambisa. Troops are also tracking and hunting down the fleeing insurgents with fighting patrols and ambushes.
TROOPS’ ENCOUNTER WITH BHT
3.Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole sustained precursor operations to clear BHT enclaves in the fringes and identified islands of the Lake Chad area with devastating consequences on the adversary. These precursor operations dovetailed into Operation DEEP PUNCH II; a major coordinated Land, Maritime and Air operations to rout out the insurgents from their enclaves in the Lake Chad Islands otherwise known as the “Tumbus”. Long range fighting patrols have also continued to trail and seek out BHT hideouts as well as protect liberated areas from fleeing and prowling BHT elements. I will expatiate on some of these operations as this press briefing unfolds.
CLEARANCE PATROLS AND AMBUSH OPERATIONS
4.On 12 December, 2017, a combined troops of Operation Lafiya Dole and elements of CJTF and vigilante cleared Fai – Dendere in Damboa Local government area of Borno state. The troops destroyed camps at Adole and Yajiwa. The troops also captured and destroyed 5 Motorcycles, 40 bicycles, grinding machine, motorcycle workshop, food stuff and IED materials abandoned by fleeing BHT in the camp.
5.On 16 December 2017, troops on escort duty to Logomani countered BHT ambush at Maula village along Gajibo–Logomani. The troops successfully fought through the ambush, killing 6 Boko Haram insurgents and recovered 2 AK 47 rifles, 3 locally fabricated fire arms and a belt of 7.62mm ammunition. In a further exploitation by the troops into Maula, Tongule and Warge villages, they recovered one FN rifle, five FN magazines, 54 rounds of 7.62mm (NATO), two BHT banners, one grinding machine, two motorcycles, three bicycles, four generators, two Ladders and one shovel.
6.Troops on Clearance Operations on 16 December, 2017 cleared BHT in an encounter at Chinene and Chikide, killing four BHT, while some of the insurgent escaped with gunshot wounds. In a separate operation on 16 December 2017, troops ambushed and killed two BHT at Firgi. The troops also recovered One Light Machine Gun and one Magazine. Other items recovered include 2 Machetes, 10 Bicycles, 11 Blankets, 5 water bottles, 25 clothing and 8 sacks of food. Similarly on 18 December, 2017, troops on patrol to Bula Yobe and Darel Jamel encountered and killed three BHT as well as recovered one Ak 47 rifle, one bicycle and two machetes. In the same vein, one BHT was killed while planting IED along Firgi road. Troops recovered one gas cylinder and one Motorcycle from the spot.
7.On 23 December 2017, following intelligence reports troops tracked and engaged BHT who had rustled about 200 cows at Makandari village in Kala Balge Local Government Area. The troops killed two of the insurgents and recovered one AK 47 rifle, one empty magazine and two motorcycles. In another encounter on 6 Jan 2018, troops on clearance patrol to Tumbun Gini, engaged and killed one BHT, while two others were captured. Troops also recovered one AK 47 rifle, two Motorcycles and 3 mobile Phones.
8.In another operation, combined troops of Operation Lafiya Dole and vigilantes on 16 January 2018 successfully ambushed BHT escaping from troops’ pursuit at Pallam village. The troops killed two BHT in the ambush and recovered two AK 47 rifles.
9.On 24 January 2018, troops sprang ambush against fleeing BHT insurgents at an identified BHT crossing point at Firgi killing two insurgents and recovering one AK 47, one FN rifle, one Motorcycle, the sum of Ten Thousand, Five Hundred Naira (N10, 500.00).
OPERATION DEEP PUNCH II
10.Operation DEEP PUNCH II is an operation aimed at clearing Boko Haram insurgents from the northern fringes and islands in the Lake Chad region, as well as destroy identified Boko Haram enclaves in the Sambisa general area. It is in line with this objective, that the Land, Maritime and Air Task Force troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE commenced clearance operations in the Lake Chad Islands from 3 – 16 January 2018. During the operations, troops successfully cleared Metele, Tumbun Gini and Tumbun Nd’jamena. On 7 January 2018, troops cleared several BHT enclaves and destroyed BHT logistics bases stocked with fish, foodstuff, fuel and motorcycles. Troops neutralised 47 insurgents and recovered one Anti-Aircraft gun, 4 AK 47 rifles, 2 Light Machine Guns, 2 Rocket Propelled Grenade tubes with one bomb, 2 primed hand grenades, 116 rounds of 12.7mm ammunition with links, 57 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition.
11.On 8 January 2018, Operation DEEP PUNCH II continued with clearance and offensive operations killing 10 insurgents and capturing 2 BHT insurgents alive. Troops also recovered 2 Gun trucks with one mounted with an Anti-Aircraft gun, as well as 10 AK 47 rifles, one FN rifle, 2 Rocket Propelled Grenade-7 tubes, one General Purpose Machine Gun, five 60mm Mortar High Explosive Bombs, one 36 Hand Grenade, one thousand and one rounds of 7.62mm ball metal links, 55 rounds of 7.62mm packets, 37 rounds of 12.7mm x 108 with links and 4 AK 47 magazines.
12.Troops conducting Operation DEEP PUNCH II continued the clearance operation progressively into the very heart of Camp Zairo and on 30 January 2018 encountered a resistance by Boko Haram insurgents while trying to defend one of their major camps. In the encounter, troops were able to overpower and clear the insurgents and recovered an Eagle Main Battle Tank (EMBT), 1 Vehicule Blinde Leger (VBL) – Light Armoured Vehicle, religious books, Gas Cylinders and a bag of fertilizer apparently for making Improvised Explosive Devices. Other items captured by the troops include 7 Gun trucks, 4 Trucks, 5 Hilux vehicles, 1 Prado Jeep, 1 Golf car, 4 Mitsubishi pick-up, 1 Hiace bus and several motorcycles.
13.The second phase of the operation began with an offensive by Land troops with close air support from the Air Task Force on 24 January 2018. During the encounter and further exploitation, troops destroyed Boko Haram terrorists’ equipment, make-shift accommodation around Camp Zairo, Improvised Explosives Device (IEDs) and Booby traps. The Air Task Force support, also led to several air strikes on BHT targets, one of which was an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) bomb on group of insurgents who were massing up to launch an attack on own troops. The air strike killed several of the insurgents and demobilised two of their gun trucks, thereby causing them to abandon the planned attack on troops.
14.Troops also killed 7 Boko Haram Terrorists and wounded several others as they fled. The troops recovered 1 Gun truck, 1 Anti-Aircraft Gun, 1 Machine Gun, a Pistol, large quantity of ammunition, a 120 mm Mortar Base Plate. Additionally, troops destroyed 11 Boko Haram terrorists’ Gun trucks, 12 Hilux vehicles, 3 Canter trucks, 30 Bicycles, Power generating sets, Gas cylinders, military kits and IED making workshop.
15.On 6 February 2018, troops closely supported by the Air Task Force, further exploited deep into the far ends of Camp Zairo, where they aggressively carried out an offensive against Boko Haram terrorists, defending a major Improvised Explosive Device (IED) making factory. The gallant troops successfully engaged the insurgents, demobilised their vehicle Borne IEDs and neutralised a good number of the terrorists, as well as capturing the IED making factory. The troops also recovered 88 Gas cylinders, one Laptop computer, one 100mm Ultra High frequency Hand-held Radio (UHF HH Radio), one Motorola GP 180, one Theodolite and two Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Aside providing close air support to Land troops during the offensive, the Air Task Force also launched ferocious air strikes on BHT locations in Sambisa, destroying an artillery gun, a major BHT armament that would have otherwise been employed by the insurgents against own troops. Sadly, we lost 3 soldiers and 3 were wounded during these various encounters. The wounded soldiers have since been evacuated by the Air Task Force and are responding to treatment. On 12 February 2018, our gallant troops dislodged Boko Haram insurgents from one of their fortified hideouts around S-Shape part of the Sambisa forest, close to Sabil Huda. During the fierce offensive, troops routed the insurgents, neutralised many and recovered two Spartan Armoured Personnel Carrier and one Canter truck among other logistics.
16.Summarily, within the period under review, 186 Boko Haram insurgents were killed in combat. 49 Gun trucks, 3 Yellow Buckets trucks, 14 VBIEDs, 4 Toyota Buffalo, 13 Pick-up vehicles, 3 water tankers, 3 Canter trucks, 19 Hilux vehicles, 15 AK 47 Rifles, 3 FN rifles and several other assorted fire arms, as well as logistics were destroyed during the fire fight, as troops engaged the insurgents. This has severely depleted the ranks and logistics of the insurgent group.
OPERATION RUWAN WUTA III
17.In the period under review, the Air Task Force conducted Operation RUWAN WUTA III from 12 – 17 December 2017 to consolidate on the counter insurgency gains earlier recorded in Operations RUWAN WUTA I and II. The Operation was a 6-day Air Interdiction (AI) to further sustain the tempo of offensive air operations, thereby denying the insurgents the much-needed respite to recover and re-organize themselves to carry out any major offensive against own troops.
18.During the Air operations, key adversarial targets were identified and attacked in a series of air strikes by the Air Task Force. Aside the initially identified targets, intensive Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions were conducted to acquire other targets for interdiction as the operation commenced. The ATF provided close air support to Land troops, as they conducted offensive and clearance operations against the insurgents in Arina-Chiki, Arina-Woje, Chukun-Gudu and Bukar-Meram. This obvious synergy with the Land troops culminated in the decimation of the insurgents as well as destruction of several BHT technical (Armed vehicles) and other logistics, thereby significantly degrading their capabilities.
19.It is worthy of note at this juncture, that in order to successfully execute these Operations, the Air Task Force conducted a total of 71 missions in 94 sorties, within a total of 152 hours 45 minutes and a total of 142,230 Litres of Jet A1 fuel was utilized by the various participating platforms. The Air Task Force in conjunction with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has currently commenced the conduct of Operation RUWAN WUTA IV around the northern fringes of the Lake Chad Islands in support of ground operations against the insurgents.
ARREST OF BHT SUSPECTS
20.In the period under review, a number of BHT suspects were nabbed during surveillance operations by vigilant troops. The arrested suspects were apprehended for indulging in subversive and other atrocious activities. A total of 34 Boko Haram suspects were arrested during the period of these operations. On 18 January 2018, for instance, troops in conjunction with vigilantes arrested Isah Muhammadu – 32 years from Chirokusko and Adamu Isah – 25 years from Garga village both in Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe state, while they were in possession of one Ak 47 rifle, 2 Dane guns and 106 rounds of 7.62mm (special). Time will not permit me to mention all the other cases here. The suspects who are currently undergoing interrogations will be thoroughly investigated and will subsequently be handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies.
CONSTRUCTION OF ACCESS ROADS INTO SAMBISA
21.Given the recent operational successes recorded in the Operations DEEP PUNCH II and the need to sustain troops’ domination of the area, it has become expedient to construct access roads into the very heart of the Sambisa forest. The road construction being executed by Nigerian Army Engineers under Operation Lafiya Dole has commenced in earnest from Gwoza through Yamteke to Bitta, as well as from Bita through Tokumbere into Sambisa.
RESCUE OF CIVILIANS
22.Quite a good number of civilians were rescued by troops during the period under review. Some of these civilians were extricated by troops from BHT abduction during search and rescue operations, while others who were escaping from BHT enclaves were rescued and brought to safety by troops. A total of 3, 475 civilians have so far been rescued by troops during the period under review. They have been profiled and handed over to IDP camps nearest to their various locations.
23.You will recall that on 4 January 2018, Salomi Pogu, one of the Chibok girls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok and held hostage by BHT since 2014 was rescued by troops as she escaped in the company of another young girl Jamila Adams and her child. They were immediately given medical attention and later handed over to the Borno State Government for further processing and administering. During the second phase of Operation DEEP PUNCH II, another set of 84 abductees were rescued by troops from one of the BHT camps clamped down in Sambisa. Among these rescued abductees, is the wife of Abu Yarsir, the personal physician to Abubakar Shekau. In the northern fringes of Borno state alone, over 700 abductees comprising fishermen and farmers were rescued in the ongoing operations in the Lake Chad Region.
SURRENDERED BOKO HARAM TERRORISTS
24.The ongoing operations by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, intensified by artillery and aerial bombardments of identified BHT enclaves through coordinated close support of the Air Task Force, has yielded positive results, aside decimating the ranks of the insurgents. Several insurgents are realizing the futility of the struggle and are now abandoning the group by surrendering to our troops. In these operations, 750 insurgents surrendered to troops in the general area of Monguno, while 63 insurgents surrendered in the Damboa and Chibok areas. Ninety insurgents equally surrendered to Cameroon Defence Forces. A total of 167 insurgents were captured by troops during the operations. The intensity of the operations also resulted in the surrendering of about 250 insurgents to the Nigerien Defence Forces.
IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE (IED) ATTACKS
25.Boko Haram Terrorists remain callous and continue to indulge themselves in the contemptible act of suicide bombing, forcefully using the most vulnerable in our society; innocent young women and children as IED couriers. They have impenitently continued to target both civilian and military vehicles with IEDs, either planted on the road or conveyed in vehicles (VBIED). Other courier means such as motorcycle and bicycle have also been employed in these dastardly acts. Be assured that we are dauntless and will tirelessly keep seeking out and neutralizing BHT suicide bomb couriers, as well as destroying their IED factories. Several suicide bomb attacks were proactively averted by our troops before they reached their target destinations. BHT IEDs planted along roads targeting innocent road users were also detected and safely detonated by our Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams (EOD). A mention of a few of these incidents will suffice in this briefing.
26.On Tuesday 9 January 2018, troops deployed around Gamboru Ngala averted what would have been a very devastating suicide attack carried out by three female suicide bombers. Two of the suicide bombers strapped with suicide vests who attempted to infiltrate Gamboru town were taken out by troops. A third suicide bomber was also intercepted in the same general area and has been taken into custody with her suicide vest. In a similar situation, on 21 January 2018, two female suicide bombers hastily detonated their suicide vests near Dikwa Divisional Police station, when they were accosted by troops. Only the 2 suicide bombers died in the incident.
27. On 31 January 2018, a twin suicide bomb attack was cold-heartedly carried out on Dalori IDP camp leading to the death of 4 persons and 20 others injured. Another suicide bomb attack carried out on Mandarari in Konduga town was successfully foiled by troops as the suicide bomber was demobilised before she could gain access into the IDP camp.
28.In concluding this press briefing, it is no gainsaying that in all of these operations conducted by troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, we have lost gallant comrades, who courageously paid the supreme sacrifice, rather than let a bunch of villains terrorise our nation. They fought for the just cause of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our nation. At this juncture, I and the entire officers, soldiers, ratings, airmen and members of other security agencies of Operation LAFIYA DOLE commiserate with the families of the fallen Heroes. We assure you that as their blessed memories eternally remain with us, we are more resolute and decisive to bring terrorism and insurgency to an end in the North East.
29.I must also extend my sympathy to all those who have lost a relation, friend or associate or who have been affected in one way or the other by the dastardly and callous acts of suicide bombing by the terrorists. I urge you not to give up, nor be intimidated. We must together fight the righteous battle of destroying the evil, called Boko Haram.
30.While I appreciate members of the general public for their untiring support to troops in the ongoing counter terrorism and counter insurgency war in the North East, I implore you to continue to support the troops, “your troops” by being vigilant in your homes, neighbourhood and communities. Identify strange persons or activities and promptly alert the security agencies. Be assured that whatever information you pass to us will be treated discreetly. Together, we must defeat our common adversary.
Thank you for your attention.