At least 50 Nigerians soldiers were killed Monday in a deadly ambush by suspected Boko Haram gunmen near Goneri, a village in Yobe State, multiple security sources have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The attack, perhaps the deadliest by the terror group in recent times, wiped out an artillery unit of the army, the sources said.
A reliable security source familiar with the incident said the troops were on a special operation called Operation Ayiso Tamonuma when they were attacked.
The source said amongst those who paid the supreme sacrifice were two majors of the Nigeria Army and an Airforce flight lieutenant.
The source said troops on Operation Ayiso Tamonuma had commenced advancing into Alagarno general area on Sunday before running into the first ambush by Boko Haram terrorists on the second day.
The source said no soldier was killed in the first attack, “but few of the troopers were injured.”
“The troops were able to fight back and got out of the ambush situation and then harboured near a place called Gorge on 22nd March 2020,” one source said.
The official said the troops came under yet another attack on Monday after they had reorganised to proceed to advance towards Alagarno.
“They commenced movement from harbour area ahead of Gorge on Monday and the Boko Haram terrorists came to stage yet another attack from the rear of the troop’s convoy hitting their Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher(MBRL) and Sinotruck otherwise called ‘yellow-bucket’ that was fully loaded with soldiers,” the source said.
“The Boko Haram terrorist utilised their rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) firepower and other support weapons on the vehicles which inflicted heavy casualties on the troops, wiping out the entire artillery troop,” he revealed.
The source who pleaded anonymity said full details of the casualties could not be immediately ascertained.
“However, according to our contacts, it was confirmed that at least over 50 soldiers were killed and some of the KIA are burnt beyond recognition,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES has withheld some details of the attack as a mark of respect for the fallen soldiers, and to allow the authorities officially to communicate with their families.
The source said some of the soldiers who survived with injuries were evacuated to hospitals in Damaturu and Maiduguri for treatment.
“For now, the detailed list of the casualties can only be ascertained after the entire troops have returned to Goniri,” the source said.
Another source, a soldier in Damaturu, Yobe State capital, confirmed the attack but could not give further details.
A senior army officer also said “the Yobe attack was really a huge setback.”
“I lost a friend among the officers that died on Monday,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has confirmed the attack on troops.
Confirming the development at a press briefing, Coordinator of Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Mr John Enenche, blamed the massacre of soldiers on locals around the area. He said the locals leaked intelligence on the movement of troops to the Boko Haram.
Enenche, a major general, said the slain troops were on their way back from Alagarno “after a successful military operation when “suspected local informants” allegedly leaked movements of Nigerian troops to Boko Haram.
The general’s statement at the press conference was circulated by PRNigeria, a public relations firm close to the Nigerian security agencies.
Enenche said the terrorists used the information provided by their local collaborators to stage an ambush and shot at military logistics trucks conveying fuel and ammunition.
He said the attack on the trucks caused “massive explosions” that led to the death of 47 gallant troops of the Nigerian military.
Enenche said the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were on clearance and fighting patrol operation to Gorgi between March 21 and, 23, “which was successfully done.”
“However during a consolidation operation, they were ambushed by elements of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT),” he said.
“Sadly, the Nigerian military suffered some casualties in the unfortunate attack.
“However the Air Component of OPERATION LAFIYA DOLE scrambled immediately and provided Close Air Support to the ground troops.
“While the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform as well as the fighter jets engaged the Boko Haram Terrorists immobilizing killing some of the terrorists and immobilizing a gun truck. Some others who attempted to withdraw were also mopped up by the jets in follow-on attacks.
“The Defence Headquarters commiserate with the families of our fallen gallant heroes who paid the supreme price in the course of defending our fatherland.
“We assure Nigerians that the Armed forces and other security agencies in furtherance of the objective of restoring peace and security in the North East and other parts of the country will continue to sustain the offensive against the enemies of our nation.”
He said an earlier video had shown a gathering of Boko Haram terrorists and their locations before they were bombarded and “totally obliterated by the air component of the operation lafiya dole.”