…Nigeria denies claim
Terrorists aligned with the Islamic State militant group have captured a military base in Borno state after overnight clashes with troops, sources told AFP on Saturday.
Machine-gun wielding fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the base in the town of Marte in the Lake Chad area overnight Friday into Saturday, two sources said.
“The priority now is to reclaim the base from the terrorists and an operation is underway,” one of the sources said.
We took a hit from ISWAP terrorists. They raided the base in Marte after a fierce battle.”
The second source said the army “incurred losses” but it was not yet clear how many people had died or the level of destruction inflicted by the insurgents.
ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, maintains camps on islands in Lake Chad — where Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad meet — and the area is known to be group’s bastion.
Last week, the jihadists attacked the Marte base but were repelled, prompting them to mobilise more fighters for the overnight raid, said the sources.
The raid was seen as a “fightback” after recent losses — troops recently overran ISWAP’s second largest camp in Talala village, said the sources.
In November last year, officials began the phased return of residents to Marte six years after they were pushed out by the jihadists.
The town, 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the regional capital Maiduguri, was once considered the breadbasket of the Lake Chad region.
At least 36,000 people have been killed in the jihadist conflict since 2009 and violence has spread into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition.
But the military dispute the story that their Marte base was overrun by the terrorists, but said it killed several terrorists and destroyed seven gun trucks.
However, Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko, Acting Director, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, in a statement claimed troops of Operation TURA TAKAIBANGO in conjunction with the Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE have effectively destroyed 7 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists’ gun trucks and decimated several unconfirmed number of the terrorists when they attempted to attack their location at the outskirts of Marte in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.
“The gallant troops, based on reliable information about the attack, had positioned themselves in an ambush site where they tactically withdrew to, and awaited the arrival of the terrorists before they opened fire which led to fierce battle that resulted in the successes recorded as indicated above.
“The troops are still engaged in pursuit of the fleeing terrorists for further exploitation. Further details of interest to members of the public will be communicated later,” he said.