Some Nigerian troops are missing after Boko Haram insurgents overran a military base in the remote part of the North-East, security sources said Sunday, in the second major assault on the armed forces in two days.
The militants invaded a base holding more than 700 soldiers in Yobe State – where they abducted over 100 girls from a school earlier this year – in an onslaught Saturday night, a military source told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.
Fewer than 100 soldiers returned following the attack, which took place just 24 hours after Boko Haram fighters ambushed a military convoy in neighbouring Borno State on Friday.
The two assaults highlighted the tenuous hold Nigerian forces have on the ravaged region despite claims by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government that the country is in a “post-conflict stabilisation phase.”
“Boko Haram terrorists attacked troops of the 81st Division Forward Brigade at Jilli village in Geidam district. The terrorists came in huge numbers around 7:30 pm and overran the base after a fierce battle that lasted until 9:10 pm,” said the military source.
“The base had 734 troops. Currently, the commander of the base and 63 soldiers have made it to Geidam (60 kilometres away) while the remaining 670 are being expected,” he said, without elaborating on their possible fate.
“We don’t know if there were any casualties among the troops. That will be known later,” he said, adding that the base was new and the troops had recently arrived from Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
A leader of a local anti-jihadist militia said the soldiers sustained casualties, but was unable to give a toll, attributing the attack to the Abu-Mus’ab Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, which is known for targeting Nigerian forces.
“We learned that they drove from Lake Chad through Gubio (in nearby Borno State) and attacked the base,” he said.
Geidam resident, Fannami Gana, said the jihadists “overwhelmed” the troops.
“We don’t know the details of what happened but we learnt they were overwhelmed by hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen,” said Gana.
Nigerian army spokesman, Texas Chukwu, said he did not know about the attack.
“I am not aware of the attack because (I) have not received information from there,” Chukwu said in a text message to AFP.