By Major-General IBRAHIM ATTAHIRU, Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole.
1. Gentlemen of the press and members of the public, I welcome you all to today’s press conference. The resolve to keep the public informed of the activities in Operation LAFIYA DOLE is still very much aglow. The last one month has witnessed sustained operations against our common adversary, the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) group. The period witnessed concurrent operations involving Operation DEEP PUNCH 2 and Operation RUWAN WUTA. The 2 operations focused on coordinated aerial bombardments by the air and artillery platforms supported by land operations against the BHT to further decimate their ranks.
2. Operation DEEP PUNCH 2 orchestrated myriad of precursor operations including clearance operations, long range fighting patrols, ambushes, blocking operations as well as cordon and search operations. On the other hand, Operation RUWAN WUTA which was majorly an air operation, in sync with the artillery, effectively brought devastating air and artillery bombardments to bear on the insurgents. The BHT were further decimated in the process with quite a handful of their enclaves and hideouts along our international borders with Cameroun destroyed.
3. The Mobile Strike Teams (MSTs) which were inaugurated in mid-August 2017 have steadily gained momentum and have continued to ensure our Main Supply Routes (MSRs) are adequately patrolled and secured on a daily basis. Thus, enhancing the safety of commuters as well as ensuring the gradual return of economic activities in some rural communities. The Naval Outpost Lake Chad in conjunction with 7 Bde amphibious troops Baga are equally ensuring unhindered fishing activities and also denying the BHT freedom of action on the Lake Chad. The BHT have continued to flagrantly violate extant International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws by committing heinous crimes, attacking vulnerable and defenceless civilians as well as conscripting underage as fighters and for unleashing suicide attacks on innocent citizens. Own troops on the other hand have continued to responsively countered the BHT activities thereby further achieving decisive conditions for the eventual defeat of the BHT.
4. During the period under review, troops foiled several BHT suicide and other forms of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, thereby causing the adversary to drown in its own blood. It is rewarding to note that our operations during this period brought despondency upon the BHT and with the resolve by troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE to tenaciously pursue their mandate, I want to reassure you that BHT will finally be brought to its knees in no distant time. This brief will thus, shed light on the operational activities of Operation LAFIYA DOLE in the last one month.
OWN OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES
5. Most of the activities of the BHT during the period were callously targeted at civilians in IDP camps and remote communities with IED mostly employed by the terrorists group against these soft targets. The BHT also engaged in theft of livestock and kidnapping. However, own troops responded decisively to these terrorists activities by conducting clearance operations to deny the insurgents freedom of action. Troops also conducted operations to block BHT access to logistics supplies as well as replenishment. Furthermore, troops neutralize the BHT through robust fighting patrols and ambush operations. A total of 19 BHT were killed in combat while 18 others were arrested. Ten BHT surrendered to own troops during the period while 230 BHT captives were rescued and handed over to various IDP camps. Some of the operational activities embarked upon by own troops will be highlighted.
TROOPS’ ENCOUNTER WITH BHT
6. In the period under review, troops conducted precursor operations and other offensives geared towards their final defeat. Some of the operations led to the killing of 2 BHT key commanders Afdu Kawuri and Abubakar Benishek in a successful operation on 1 Sep 17 at Alafa in Bama Local Government Area (LGA). Additionally, a prominent BHT commander Ba’abba Ibrahim and 2 other commanders died after sustaining injuries during their last encounter with our Special Forces in an ambush at Magumeri LGA of Borno state.
7. In another encounter on 1 Sep 17, own troops repelled a BHT attack on IDP camp at Banki. The attack followed discreet BHT infiltration into the area through the Nigeria – Cameroun border. The fire fight between own troops and the insurgents resulted in the death of 2 BHT causing them to flee. Unfortunately however 11 x IDPs were killed and 2 others wounded in the process. In the chaos that ensued, 4 IDPs were also reported missing. Consequently, search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched in a concerted effort to locate the missing IDPs while the wounded civilians were evacuated for medical treatment. The troops also recovered one suspected primed IED and abandoned food items taken from the IDP camp. In a similar occurrence, troops successfully repelled a BHT attack on ICRC IDP Camp, Dikwa in the early hours of 1 Sep 17. An unconfirmed number of BHT sustained gunshot wounds in the counter attack.
8. Regrettably, on 8 Sep 17, six members of the CJTF were killed in a Person Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) attack targeted at an IDP camp at Ngala. A follow up sporadic fire by elements of the BHT group was however successfully quelled by own troops. Meanwhile, security measures have been strengthened around the affected IDP camps as well as others in conjunction with other security agencies to avert a recurrence.
In another development, on 9 Sep 17, troops at Mararaba Kirawa in Gwoza LGA successfully repelled an attack by elements of BHT killing one of the insurgents and recovering one AK 47 rifle. Also, troop of MST 3 on aggressive patrol along Road Damboa – Chibok arrested 2 BHT suspects, Huwa Abogu and Chiroma Kote between Gumsuri and Grijam villages with a Toyota pick-up van in which they concealed 5 motorcycles under a heap of sacks. As we are all aware, the use of motorcycles have been banned within the theatre of operation and as at today only BHT use motorcycles to perpetrate their crimes. Suspects are currently undergoing investigations to determine their mission and other accomplices.
9. In a related development, troops intercepted one Mudasil Abdullahi in green Peugeot 406 with registration number DRZ 634 AAA Bauchi with 42 live cartridges while enroute Sada Village in Bauchi State. Though the driver claimed that the car belonged to a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, the vehicle however has been impounded and investigation is in progress. Also, troops on fighting patrol to Daragome in Ganjuwa LGA of Bauchi State area intercepted a wanted notorious kidnapper, Saminu Usman following a tip off. The suspect who attempted to flee when spotted was however shot by the vigilant troops and later died during medical evacuation to the hospital. Just last night, Boko Haram Elements who attempted to attack our troops’ location at Gwoza were dealt a devastating blow by our troops, who killed 15 of the Boko Haram Terrorists. The troops further exploited in a counter attack against the terrorists group and destroyed one Hilux pick-up mounted with Anti-aircraft gun and captured one Vehicule Blinde Leger (VBL). The troops also recovered a large quantity of ammunition and incendiaries.
10. During the period under review, troops also embarked on series of ambushes to deny BHT freedom of action. On 10 Sep 17, own troops sprung ambushes against BHT elements along Road Ngurosoye – Bama near Borno State College of Basic Studies (BOCOBS) and Mararaba Kirawa.
One BHT was killed, while one AK 47 rifle, one magazine, 60 rounds of 7.62mm (special), a machete, 3 bicycles and the sum of Five Thousand, Six Hundred Naira (N5, 600.00) only were recovered during the ambush. Also, on 12 Sep 17, own troops successfully sprung an ambush against BHT elements using the Firgi crossing point in Bama LGA to access the Sambisa Forest. The ambush was extended to Mallam Gonare where 2 BHT were killed. Troops also recovered unexploded ordnance and 7.62 mm ammunition during the operation.
11. In the same vein, on 12 Sep 17, troops ambushed fleeing BHT elements along Road Ngoshe – Bokko Kugile and killed one of the insurgents. Troops also recovered 3 bicycles, 2 wrist watches, 2 SIM cards and the sum of One Thousand, One Hundred and Forty Naira (N1, 140. 00) only. Similarly, on 14 Sep 17, own troops in conjunction with vigilantes sprung ambush against BHT around Lokodisa in Gwoza LGA. One BHT was killed while others fled with gunshot wounds. Troops also recovered one AK 47 rifle, 117 rounds of 7.62mm (NATO) ammunition, 14 rounds of 21mm, 7 bicycles, one trolley, a machete and 2 jerry cans.
ARREST OF BHT SUSPECTS
12. With the continuous coordinated air and artillery bombardments, a good number of BHT have been annihilated in their hideouts while those who escaped strove to stealthily infiltrate the IDP camps to seek refuge. It is rewarding to mention that 18 of such fleeing BHT and their collaborators were intercepted and are currently undergoing investigations. One of such instances occurred on 1 Sep 17 where a BHT suspect was identified among the 14 Nigerian refugees comprising of 4 men, 3 women and 7 children who were handed over to own troops at Banki by Cameroun Defence Force. The refugees are indigenes of Bula – Masaye Village in Bama LGA and the BHT suspect was sieved out from their midst during the profiling and interrogation of the refugees conducted by a team of security personnel from various agencies and bulamas from the said village. The suspect is however undergoing further investigations.
13. Other cases of arrest include the apprehension of one Modu Bukar, a BHT member who had attempted to murder his father at Gasarwa Village in Nganzai LGA on 3 Sep 17 but was overpowered by his siblings who arrested him and handed him over to troops. Further investigation revealed that the suspect until his arrest was an active member of the BHT group. He is however assisting troops with useful information in on-going investigations. In another development, troops deployed on roadblock along Road Mongonu – Maiduguri on 3 Sep 17 intercepted one Hauwa Hassan in possession of 64 x rounds of 7.62mm (special) ammunition, 2 x AK 47 magazines and one pair of uniform. Her mission was not immediately ascertained however she is still in own custody for investigations. Similarly, on 5 Sep 17, troops arrested 3 BHT collaborators namely Abubakar Aminami , Yaharam Goni Abacha and Modu Abubakar Aminami.
14. On 11 Sep 17, troops deployed at Forward Operational Base, Mainok in conjunction with members of Civilian Joint Task force (CJTF) arrested a suspected BHT logistics supplier named Sa’id Khalil in Mainok town. Investigations revealed that the suspect was providing logistics to BHT. He sells cows rustled by BHT at Kukareta Market and also supply foodstuff to the insurgents in their hideouts using motorcycles. Other BHT collaborators namely Rano Karami Lalau and Ahmadu Haruna were arrested at Firi Village of Potiskum LGA and Ka’ana Village of Gabio LGA respectively by troops on 14 Sep 17 based on tip off.
15. In a similar development, suspected BHT logistics supplier and informant Ari Grema was arrested at Anguwan Rimi area in Geidam based on information provided by the locals. Furthermore, on 20 Sep 17, own troops on patrol to New Yoyo Village in Kukawa LGA arrested a suspected BHT spy who concealed himself under bushy shrubs on sighting the troops. Also, troops arrested 20 year old physically challenged BHT informant, Audu Usman at Doro Baga based on tip off. The suspects are in custody undergoing investigation.
RESCUE OF CIVILIANS
16. Within the period under review, own troops on clearance operations and fighting patrols intercepted suspected escapees and in some cases rescued quite a number of civilians from BHT elements. A total of 230 were rescued during the period. On 1 Sep 17, troops rescued a group of 6 persons a man his wife and four children from Sabsawa, villages. They were profiled and handed over to IDP camp authorities in Bama for further administration.
17. Also, on 11 Sep 17, own troops on fighting patrol rescued one Mallam Muhammed Abba-Gana Madami and 2 children who were abducted by suspected BHT following a robbery incident along Bazam and Kulia general areas of Magumeri LGA. During the operation, troops recovered one AK 47, 2 AK 47 rifle magazines, 18 rounds of 7.62mm (Special) and a pick-up truck. Similarly, on 12 Sep 17, troops on fighting patrol rescued two women and 7 children from Bula – Kuri and Zala villages. They were screened by a combination of military and other security agents and thereafter handed over to officials of the IDP camp in Bama.
18. On 13 Sep 17, own troops intercepted 14 refugees along Gamboru/ Fotokol border while returning from Zengeyaih Village in Cameroon Republic. Preliminary investigation revealed that they were indigenes of Amchaka and Kufe villages in Kala Balge LGA. They were subsequently handed over to officials of Ngala IDP Camp for necessary administration. In the same vein, troops intercepted Yagaji Ba Maina aged 25 and Modu Ba Fannami aged 11 who claimed they escaped from BHT hideout at Talala Village in Damboa LGA. They are currently undergoing investigation to ascertain their claims.
19. On 17 Sep 17, fourteen returnees who allegedly were returning from Cameroun comprising three women and 11 children arrived Pulka. The women and children were screened, documented and handed over to the IDP camp officials. Also, on 18 Sep 17, sixty persons who had allegedly escaped from BHT hideouts in Chongolo and Burari villages close to Kolofata in Cameroun were intercepted by own troops. They were screened, documented and handed over to officials of IDP camp in Bama. Similarly, another group of 6 men, 10 women and 9 children from Dalari Village in Magumeri LGA were rescued by troops on fighting patrol.
20. Additionally, troops of the Cameroonian Defence Force handed over refugees comprising 19 men, 12 women and 35 children of Nigeria nationality to troops at Banki. The refugees were from Kirawa, Darel Jamel, Kodo and Deneski villages of Bama LGA. They were subsequently screened and handed over to officials of Bama IDP Camp for further management. Also, on 23 Sep 17, troops further intercepted 5 refugees returning from Jigage Village in Cameroun. They were screened and identified to be indigenes of Kilimeri Village in Bama LGA.
SURRENDERING OF BHT
21. On 30 Aug 17, three BHT namely Maidugu Ali, 28 years, Ali Abbas, 27 years and Ramat Mall Hamman, 28 years surrendered to troops alongside 4 women and a 2 year old girl. The women and child have been profiled and moved to IDP camp while the suspects are still helping with investigations. Also, on 16 Sep 17, a confirmed BHT member named Abdulamuminu Jibrin, aged 41, surrendered to own troops deployed at Damboa. The surrendered BHT confessed that he escaped from the BHT hideout at Dusula as a result of disenchantment with BHT ideology as well as starvation in the camp. Five other BHT also surrendered to troops at Damboa.
22. In the same vein, another BHT, Mallam Bakura Ibrahim, from BHT hideout at Kwalleram also surrendered to own troops deployed at Cross Kauwa on 19 Sep 17. The suspect also complained of hardship in their camp as a result of blocking operations by troops. He further cited maltreatment within the BHT ranks as well as disenchantment with the group’s ideology as some of his reasons for defecting. Meanwhile, the surrendered BHT are being profiled for further action by Operation SAFE CORRIDOR.
SUICIDE /IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE ATTACKS
23. The BHT group in its resolve to brazenly violate extant International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws have continued to unleash terror on the populace by employing suicide bombing and other forms of IED attacks against soft and vulnerable targets among others. Most of these attacks were successfully foiled and neutralized by own troops. This is however not without a few unfortunate incidents that impacted on the citizenry. For instance on 1 Sep 17, at about 0620 hours, troops intercepted 2 female suicide bombers near a mosque at Shuwari in Dikwa LGA. The efforts of our vigilant troops compelled the panicked suicide bombers to detonate themselves before reaching the target. Only the suicide bombers were killed in the incident. Also, on 3 Sep 17, at about 0145 hours, our troops again intercepted and neutralized 2 male suicide bombers who attempted to infiltrate own blocking position at Koshare-Majuane axis in Gwoza LGA.
24. As troops challenged the suicide bombers from a distance, both of them charged towards the sentry but were quickly taken out by the sentry who fired a shot at one of the suicide bombers which led to the explosion of the Person Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED). The explosion also led to the death of the second suicide bomber who apparently did not have the time to detonate his suicide vest. The vest was subsequently detonated successfully by own Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. On 7 Sep 17, own troops on patrol and CIED operations along Road Damboa – Bulabulin discovered an IED planted by BHT at Kurumiri. The determined efforts of our troops in ensuring the safety of lives and properties along the various MSRs again assisted in averting the mass casualty that would have been inflicted on commuters plying the Maiduguri – Damboa Road if the IED were left undetected. Meanwhile, own EOD team successfully detonated the explosive device.
25. On 8 Sep 17, own troops responding to a loud explosion at Bolori general area along Road Customs – Muna in Maiduguri metropolis discovered a suicide bomber who had detonated her suicide vest close to a taxi halted by personnel of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at their checkpoint. The explosion killed the suicide bomber and another who was yet to detonate her vest. Unfortunately, one NDLEA personnel at the checkpoint and 3 occupants of the taxi were injured in the incident. The scene was cordoned off by own troops while personnel of the Nigeria Police Force EOD team neutralised the unexploded vest. The remains of the 2 suicide bombers were also cleared by SEMA and officials of the Red Cross while the injured victims were evacuated for medical attention.
26. Furthermore, on 13 Sep 17, troops on patrol along Road Gwoza – Yamtake discovered one IED at Lokodisa, which was detonated in situ by own EOD team. Also, troops while on patrol and CIED operations along Road Dikwa – Ajiri – Mafa – Maiduguri discovered and destroyed 2 Detonator 27 (electrical) at a suspected BHT crossing point near Bakassi Bridge. In a separate development, on 18 Sep 17, a group of 2 males and one female suicide bombers attacked Mushimari Village in the outskirts of Konduga. Investigation revealed that BHT on 4 motorcycles created panic in the area by first shooting sporadically in order to creat confusion and in the process inserted the suicide bombers who disguised as part of the local scampering for safety. However, the suicide bombers later detonated their vest when the villagers regrouped to assess the situation thus, killing 13 civilians including one CJTF and injuring 19 others. The injured were promptly evacuated for medical treatment.
27. There were also attempts to attack troops on patrol using IED but these attacks were successfully neutralised. The attempted IED attack on troops deployed at Kumshe and also those on patrol along Miyanti – Banki Junction as well as Road Bama – Aulari between 19 – 23 Sep 17 further demonstrates the frustration on the part of the BHT. The group is obviously venting its disillusionment by engaging in the use of IED against soft and hard targets knowing that their capability for sustained operations has been largely degraded.
28. At this juncture, it is very expedient to again reiterate the very dire need for all and sundry to continue to ensure the relative peace and security achieved thus far within the Theatre is sustained through collective efforts. While we urge the community and religious leaders to continue sensitizing their people on the need to always report any strange face or suspicious activity within their vicinity to the nearest security agency, I also want to reassure members of the public that troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE would continue to remain undaunted in the pursuit of its mandate. In doing this, the troops would continue to be professional in the discharge of their duties in line with international best practices and with respect for national and international laws. The public is therefore urged to continue supporting the troops morally, spiritually and otherwise in the defeat of our common enemy which is the BHT group.
CIVIL- MILITARY RELATIONS
29. In the period under review, own troops engaged in a number of civil military related activities to strengthen the support enjoyed from the host communities.
30. Repair of Road. Own troops engaged in the repairs of washed away portion of Road Dikwa – Ngala by filling up and patching the potholes that hitherto made movement along the road very tortuous. More so, these potholes are usually used by the BHT to bury their IEDs thus making the routes exposed to danger from the BHT threat. The patching of most of these potholes by troops have reduced the threat significantly. The eroded portion of the Road Ngusoroye – Damel Jamal was also fixed by the troops with the support of element of the NAE in the frontline.
31. Sensitization Programme on the Outbreak of Cholera. The Cholera epidemic was a major setback recorded within the Theatre especially in some of the IDP camps. The disease led to some deaths however troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE were unaffected by the scourge. Meanwhile, Operation LAFIYA DOLE supported other relevant stakeholders in curbing the further spread of the cholera epidemic by conducting sensitization programme on its Operation LAFIYA DOLE FM Station. Commanders at all levels were also tasked to hold meetings with community and religious leaders and other stakeholders to sensitize IDPs against Cholera outbreak. Health workers from international humanitarian agencies were equally invited to speak to the stakeholders.
32. Provision of Medicare to Displaced Persons and Vulnerable Individuals. Own troops offered medical services to civilian out-patients and in-patients with various health challenges in Bama, Banki, Rann, Kareto and Maiduguri among others during the period under review. Among the patients were 30 pregnant women who received weekly ante natal services.
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO TROOPS OF OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE
33. The President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari accompanied by the Service Chiefs and Director General, Department of State Service, paid a visit to the theatre of operation on 1 October 2017, where he celebrated Nigeria’s 57th Independence Day Anniversary with troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE. During the visit, the president took time to personally interact with officers and men of the Operation as well as empathised with the wounded in action. It is pertinent to state here, that the presidential visit has further strengthened our resolve to decisively deal with terrorism and insurgency in the north east.
34. Members of the press, ladies and gentlemen, at this stage of our fight against BHT, I urge you all especially members of the general public to continue to be more security conscious. You are also encouraged to establish neighbourhood watch teams in remote villages and communities, markets, motor parks among others to monitor strange or suspicious persons and promptly pass information to security agencies. The BHT are regularly changing their tactics to enable them sustain attacks on unsuspecting soft and vulnerable targets. The use of bicycles and Digital Video Disks (DVD) to convey IED for suicide attacks are recent examples of some of these new techniques.
35. While we appreciate the larger members of the society for their continuous support in the fight against BHT, we will also want to observe that we still have some unscrupulous elements among the populace who are collaborating with BHT, mostly for pecuniary gains at the expense of the safety of their loved one. So, as you engage in your normal daily activities, be conscious of your environment. Remember, that security is everybody’s business and “When you see something and say something” many lives and properties would be saved.
36. Please help the security agencies, to serve you better. Once again, your continued support in the fight against our common adversary is very much appreciated and we urge you not to relent until we together bring an end to this menace called Boko Haram. Thank you for your attention.