…Nigerian Army denies casualties
At least, 30 Nigerian soldiers died in combat with Boko Haram militants who overran a military base in Zari near the border with Niger, two military sources told AFP on Saturday.
Scores of the terrorists in trucks stormed the base at Zari village in northern Borno State late on Thursday and briefly seized it after a fierce battle, they said.
“They came in large numbers in trucks and carrying heavy weapons and engaged soldiers in a battle that lasted for an hour,” a military officer told AFP.
“We lost at least 30 men,” the officer said, adding that the attack took place at around 4pm.
“They overwhelmed the troops who were forced to temporarily withdraw before reinforcements arrived,” said the officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak.
The militants stole weapons and military equipment before they were pushed out of the base by troops with aerial support, said a second military source who gave a similar death toll.
Reacting to the report in a telephone interview, spokesman for Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, while confirming the attack, denied that the Army suffered casualties.
According Colonel Nwachukwu, contrary to the report, several of the terrorists were killed by the military troops just as he said the terrorists’ equipment were captured.
Hear him: “That information is not correct. It’s true that we had an encounter with Boko Haram at a location called Zari. The Boko Haram came to attack that community, and our troops deployed few kilometres away from the location, countered the attack.
“The ground troops were supported by the Air Task Force, and several Boko Haram Terrorists were killed, and we also destroyed many of their equipment, weapons.
“On our side, I’m yet to receive casualty figure on my desk, if there was any. So, I cannot confirm that we had (any) and I think it’s very untrue for anyone to (say we had that casualty figure).”
He said a statement was earlier issued by the command to the effect.
The statement, which was signed by the DAPR, had read: “Troops… have successfully routed Boko Haram insurgents in an encounter that ensued yesterday (Thursday) evening at Zari village in Guzamali Local Government Area of Borno state.
“The insurgents were on rampage to loot the community and extort money from villagers but met with a fierce resistance by the troops who were supported by the Air Task Force.
“Several members of the Boko Haram fighters were neutralized and weapons destroyed during the encounter.
“Zari village and the surrounding communities have been stabilized and normalcy restored. The troops have also been reinforced to conduct more robust fighting patrol in the general area.
“The people of Guzamali and Mobar communities and indeed the entire good people of Borno State are urged to remain calm, resilient and supportive of Operation Lafiya Dole, as the troops relentlessly fight terrorism and insurgency in the North East.”