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Military Airstrike Kills 52 Civilians In Borno, Buhari Condoles With Families |The Republican News

•Shettima orders emergency medical response

From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Molly Kilete, Abuja

No fewer than 52 civilians were feared killed, yesterday, as military hit an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in an aerial raid at the border town of Rann, Kala Balge Local Governmnet Area of Borno State.

Dr. Jean-Clement Cabrol, director of operations, Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) also known as doctors without borders, who  confirmed the casualty figure said at least 120 others were wounded.

He condemned the bombing, describing it as “unacceptable.”

The military authorities accepted responsibility for the ill-fated raid but declined to disclose casualty figure.

According to the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, the military conducted airstrike in the early hours of the day on a location where Boko Haram were reported to have gathered.

“We got information that Boko Haram terrorists were gathering somewhere in Kala Balge Local Government. We coordinated our air component and struck at the location, but somehow, some civilians were killed,” he said.

Irabor disclosed that some civilians and two humanitarian workers from the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) and Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) were among those wounded in the incident which he described as disturbing.

“Two of our soldiers were also wounded,” he added.

He said the military has already sent helicopter to evacuate the wounded persons but could not comment on whether or not the incident was a tactical error by the military. He said it was rather the cost of war, urging the people to work together to ensure peace returns to the troubled North East states.

He said the military would investigate the cause of the problem.

“It is too early for us to determine whether it was an error or not. We have at no time targeted the civilians whenever we carried out our operations,” he maintained.

He said the military was yet to ascertain the number of persons killed in the airstrike, adding that the death of innocent persons in the course of operation was rather disturbing to the military authority and the institution.

Although thousands of lives have been lost in the state occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents, casualty from yesterday ‘tactical error’ is one of the highest in in recent times from a single incident.

Buhari, Borno gov. react

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regrets over the bombing.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement said the President regretted that the incident happened as the Air Force engaged in the final phase of mopping up insurgents in the North East.

President Buhari condoled with families of the dead, wishing the wounded divine succour, leading to full recovery, and sympathising with the state government.

He pledged Federal Government’s help for the state in attending to “this regrettable operational mistake,” and pleaded for calm, even as he prayed God to grant repose to the souls of the dead.

Meanwhile, Governor Kashim Shettima has ordered the state Ministry of Health to set up an emergency unit with all medical hospitals under the state government located in Maiduguri, which include the state Specialist Hospital, the Professor Umaru Shehu Hospital and General Muhammad Shuwa memorial hospital to be on standby to administer treatment to the victims.

The governor’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, in a statement emailed to newsmen, said the governor received the news with “very deep concern and has channeled his focus on ensuring that all the victims, particularly those with severe injuries, are provided urgent medical treatment.”

Governor Shettima, particularly, commended the MSF for its rapid response in providing first aid treatment to victims at the scene.

“While the governor is working to ensure all victims are evacuated as soon as possible, the state Commissioner of Health has mobilised medical doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and other health officials in all hospitals owned by Borno State Government, while ambulances have also been deployed. The medical experts are currently on standby with emergency consumables set for treatment of victims as soon as they arrive Maiduguri,” the statement said.

“The Governor’s heart is with families of all those affected and he has urged citizens to pray for the repose of the souls of those dead and the speedy recovery of the injured,” it added.

Red Cross

Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent had deployed a helicopter to Rann to begin evacuation of victims, starting with those with the most critical health conditions. The MSF (Doctors without border) and officials of the state government were first responders.

MSF condemns bombing

The MSF also known as doctors without borders said the large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence was shocking and unacceptable.

“The safety of civilians must be respected. We are urgently calling on all parties to ensure the facilitation of medical evacuations by air or road for survivors who are in need of emergency care,” Dr. Cabrol said.

MSF medical teams are reportedly providing first aid to the wounded in its facility in Rann.

MSF first started working in Nigeria in 1971, and is one of the few organisations still able to operate in hard-to-reach areas of the country.

NAF

In a rare display of remorse, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said it was saddened by the  accidental airstrike by one of its fighter jet.

“The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is saddened by today’s accidental air strike by its fighter jet at Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State in which some innocent lives were lost.

“While available information is sketchy, the Theatre Commander Operation Lafia Dole is taking appropriate steps to avail us with details of the incident. The loss occasioned by this unfortunate incident is deeply regretted. The NAF commiserates with those affected and their families and would update the public as soon as detailed facts emerge from the investigation,” NAF  director of information and public relations, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said in a statement.

Army offers N.5m for information on suicide bombers

Apparently worried by the seeming resurgence of the Islamist sect which the Federal Government said had been degraded, the military has promised a reward of N500,000 for any information that could lead to the arrest of a suicide bomber, the guide to the suicide bomber, or discovery of the transit house or factory of suicide bombers.

The offer by the Nigerian Army  is aimed at encouraging law abiding citizens to actively join the war against terrorists and our collective security, a statement by Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, Director Army Public Relations, said.  (The Sun)

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Army Recovers Corpses Of Missing Officer, 15 Soldiers In Borno |The Republican News

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Olaleye Aluko and Kayode Idowu

The Nigerian Army said it had recovered corpses of “one officer and 15 soldiers’’ earlier declared “missing in action” during an operation to dislodge the Boko Haram insurgents from Gashigar Area in Borno on October 16, 2016.

The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, disclosed this at a weekly review of Operation Rescue Final at Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, on Wednesday.

“The corpses were recovered along Kamadugou River line area in Maiduguri. Among the recovered corpses was that of Lt. Col. K. Yusuf, the former Commanding Officer (CO) of 223 Tank Battalion.

“They have since been buried in Maimalari Cantonment Cemetery with full military honours,’’ Irabor said.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 67 Boko Haram terrorists were shot dead by troops in the latest gun battle in Metele, Wulge and Bulakesa villages of Borno State, which also claimed the lives of six soldiers.

It was learnt that 963 Boko Haram suspects were also arrested by the troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole as the mop up operations of the Sambisa Forest and surrounding terrorist hideouts continued.

Irabor, who confirmed the casualties of the terrorists and soldiers at a press briefing in Maiduguri, Borno State, on Wednesday, said among the suspects were women who confessed to be wives of the fleeing insurgents.

One of our correspondents gathered that in Wulge village, troops received an intelligence report that the Boko Haram members were about to launch an attack on residents and mobilised to the area, leading to a gun battle.

During the exchange, 11 terrorists were shot dead, while nine others were arrested.

However, in the clearance operations at Manawasi and Garel areas, it was learnt that the troops encountered the Boko Haram members in Bulakesa village leading to a heavy shoot-out, during which three soldiers were killed and four others injured.

During the shoot-out, troops with the support of the Air component killed 50 Boko Haram members and recovered three AK 47 rifles. Also, 27 suspected members were arrested during the operation.

Also in Metele village, it was gathered that troops in conjunction with the civilian Joint Task Force conducted another raid, and killed six Boko Haram members, while two soldiers were injured.

Irabor said, “We cleared Wulge, Metele and Bulakesa villages, where several Boko Haram members were shot dead, and sadly, we lost some officers too. We cleared Asaga, Gashigar and other villages.” (Punchng.com)

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Arrested Borno LG Chairman Worked For Boko Haram, Civilian JTF, Says Army |The Republican News

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Maj.Gen. Leo Irabor

‘Father, too, worked for insurgents’

Deputy council boss detained as 10 insurgents surrender

By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi

Days after Chairman of Mafa Local Government in Borno State, Shettima Lawan Mafa,  was arrested for allegedly hiding a Boko Haram member in his residence, the Army yesterday confirmed his alleged link with the insurgents.

This is even as the military authorities said he was also active in Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF).

Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major-General Lucky Irabor, confirmed Mafa’s arrest during a news conference at the 7 Division Headquarters in Maiduguri, yesterday.

He also disclosed that Mafa’s father allegedly backed his son and directed him to hide insurgents in his home.

Irabor said: “All I can say is that the chairman is a big supporter of Boko Haram. We heard that he harboured Boko Haram members, along with his father. He kept the Boko Haram members because his father begged him to do so. The chairman was in the habit of accommodating people who had fled from the bush.

“At some point, he has been valuable to us, being with the Civilian JTF to fight Boko Haram; but that does not mean we cannot investigate him for a crime like this.

“We have also arrested the Vice Chairman of Kaga Local Government Area (names withheld by the Army) and he is undergoing interrogation,” he said.

Against the backdrop of  flushing out insurgents from Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram stronghold, 10 members reportedly surrendered to the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, Borno State.

“After their surrender, the members opened up on how they were brainwashed by their leaders not to accept any offer of amnesty from the Federal Government, telling them they would be killed.

“Consequently, they appealed to their fellow sect members still in Sambisa, to lay down their arms and embrace peace,” he said.

One of the returnees, Joseph David, made the appeal when 10 Boko Haram members, who voluntarily surrendered to the Army to newsmen, in Maiduguri, Borno State, yesterday.

David, who is also known as Ibrahim Alhaji, said he chose to lay down his arms to embrace peace.

“I have chosen to lay down my arms to allow peace reign in the country. We have been accepted by the Nigerian Government, contrary to what we were told by the sect leaders,” he said.

Another suspect (names withheld), also appealed to the rest of the sect members still hiding in the Sambisa Forest to lay down their arms and embrace peace.

“The sect leaders told us not to surrender to the government because we will be killed, but, to our surprise, nothing happened to us. The Nigerian Government has accepted us and is taking good care of us,’’he said.

General Irabor said four of the repentant Boko Haram terrorists were from Mamman Nur’s camp, while six were from the Abubakar Shekau faction.

He said so far, over 1,400 people had been rescued by the military during the counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.

He said the repentant sect members would undergo a de-radicalisation programme to enable them become responsible citizens.

“We are doing our part to see that this madness is reduced to the barest minimum,”the Commander said.  (The Sun)

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Troops Recover Shekau’s Qur’an, Flag From Sambisa Forest |The Republican News

Our Reporter

Troops recover Shekau’s Qur’an, flag

 

The military gave more details yesterday about the capture of Sambisa Forest, including Camp Zero and Camp S (shape), the last bastion of the Boko Haram insurgents.

The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, the military team that battled the sect, Major-Gen. Lucky Irabor, said yesterday that sect leader Abubakar Shekau’s Qur’an and flag were recovered.

Gen. Irabor, who gave an update on “Operation Rescue Final’’ in Maiduguri, said: “We believe that the Holy Book and the flag were abandoned by Abubakar Shekau while he escaped.

“The book will be taken to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Burutai, for onward presentation to Mr President.

“We have also made a lot of arrests. Our troops in Damboa arrested about 15 Boko Haram members. We also arrested one Musa from Potiskum on Christmas Day.

“On Dec. 26 our troops also intercepted two Boko Haram suspects in Maiduguri.

“We, therefore, warn residents of the state to be wary of people coming to hide in and around their houses.

“We are also warning residents to report any suspected Boko Haram members hiding in their houses to the relevant security agencies and any failure to do that would be tantamount to supporting and sympathising with the sect’s activities,’’ he said.

Gen. Irabor added that troops arrested about 1,240 suspected terrorists during a mop-up operation by troops inside the forest.

According to him, 413 of the suspects were adults; 323 were women; 251 male children and 253 were female children.

He said: “We are interrogating them to know whether they are Boko Haram members, because there is no way somebody that is not their member would live inside Sambisa forest.

“We are still on the trail of the terrorists and I want to assure you that all escape routes have been blocked.

“Within this period, also, about 30 fleeing suspected Boko Haram members have surrendered to the Niger Multinational Troops on the shores of the lake Chad and we learnt that they were taken to Diffa in Niger Republic.

“The suspects include 24 male and six female.

“We would like to use this opportunity to encourage the terrorists to give up the fight because the window is still open,” the commander said.

Gen. Irabor noted that the Sambisa Forest was abandoned without any government presence which made it easy for the insurgents to take advantage of the area.

He said the activities of the army in the area would not affect the original purpose of the land which is a game reserve.

He added that the army would construct roads into the forest, and called on the government and other individuals to support the army in its endeavour to succeed in the fight.

He said the operation was still on going at the Sambisa forest and other parts of the North East to ensure a total wipe out of the terrorists

Gen. Irabor pleaded with individuals and organisations to assist the military with useful information about the remnants of Boko Haram terrorists in their midst and support or logistics to end the insurgency completely and permanently.

He urged the government to move in quickly and establish civil authorities in the liberated areas to enable residents  return to their various communities.

“Let me state that we have won the war by destroying terrorists’ fortress, and smoked them out from this forest. We are however in a transition phase after winning the war against Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism. We need to win the peace now”

The Theatre Commander also denied the picture of a Whiteman being circulated on the social media as a suspect arrested by troops during the operation in Sambisa forest.

“That picture of the Whiteman being circulated as an arrested Boko Haram suspect from Sambisa Forest is not from us. That picture is not from the army. It is not our picture”, Gen. Irabor said.

Niger Republic’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said dozens of Boko Haram fighters had given themselves up to authorities in southern Niger.

The minister said 31 young people from Diffa, who were enrolled a few years ago in Boko Haram, decided to surrender.

The fighters arrived in the remote desert town of Diffa in groups and were being held by local authorities.

“I learnt that the first who surrendered were not arrested, and I surrendered.

“We expect a pardon from the government so that we can participate in the development of the country and help us get rid of the trauma,’’ a former Boko Haram combatant told reporters.

In June, tens of thousands of people fled Diffa as Boko Haram swept the region.

Five Niger Republic soldiers were killed by the militants near Diffa in September.

It was not clear what would become of the ex-Boko Haram fighters, but authorities said there was the possibility of reintegrating them back into society.

A security source said a meeting had been  held in Diffa to discuss “the conditions of surrender”, without providing further details.

Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced over two million during a seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in Nigeria.

In recent years, its attacks have spilled into neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters surrendered in Chad in October and November as the group ceded territory.

The group controlled an area about the size of Belgium in early 2015 but has since been pushed back by international forces, including troops from Niger.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday announced that the army captured Boko Haram’s  last enclave in the vast Sambisa forest on Friday.  (The Nation)

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