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Confusion as 480 Soldiers are Found in Cameroun

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There was confusion yesterday following the denial by Defence Headquarters (DHQ) that hundreds of Nigerian soldiers had fled into neighbouring Cameroun as a result of a bloody clash with Boko Haram terrorists in Gamboru, a border town in Borno State.

According to DHQ, the Nigerian troops entered Cameroun due to the sustained battle between the troops and the terrorists around the borders with Cameroun, which saw them charging through the border in a "tactical manoeuvre".

However, DHQ's statement conflicted with a report earlier yesterday by the BBC quoting the Camerounian army as stating  that some 480 Nigerian soldiers as well as several residents had fled into the neighbouring country following fierce fighting with Boko Haram insurgents.

According to BBC, the army spokesman, Lt-Col Didier Badjek, said the soldiers had been disarmed and were now being accommodated in schools.

Some of the fleeing residents who called from Cameroun also said they had to flee when the town was attacked in the morning.

The intensity of the attack by the insurgents was said to have forced the military to beat a temporary retreat into Cameroun, though they later regrouped with the support of the Camerounian soldiers to engage the terrorists.
It was gathered from some fleeing residents of the town that the insurgents attacked the town at 5.15 am when gunshots were heard.

One of the residents, who called on a foreign mobile number from Cameroun, said the insurgents went straight to attack the military base and police station in the town.
He said the initial attack was repelled as the military killed many of the insurgents at the break of dawn.

However, the battle, he said, intensified when the insurgents regrouped about two hours later and engaged the military, forcing them to retreat into Cameroun.

He said the temporary retreat of the Nigerian military might not be unconnected to the fact that they ran out of ammunition, confirming recent complaints by soldiers that they are ill-equipped to take on a better armed Boko Haram insurgents.

The source, who spoke at about 4 pm yesterday, said the confrontation lasted for four hours.

He said: “As I am speaking to you, we are still hearing the sound of gunshots miles away, meaning they are still engaging themselves.”

A senior military officer, who spoke to journalists in Maiduguri on the condition of anonymity at 5 pm yesterday, said the fighting was still ongoing and that the military was living up to expectations.

Also, an elderly woman who did not want her name in print, said: “I had to flee into Cameroun when the shooting got out of control in part of the town and as I am talking to you, I do not know when I will be returning.”

She disclosed that she saw several corpses when she was fleeing.

DHQ: Troops on Their Way Back

Providing insight into the battle in Gamboru, the DHQ yesterday described as inappropriate and misleading the attempt to tag Nigerian soldiers, who in pursuit of Boko Haram terrorists found themselves in Cameroun, as defectors.

According to the statement on the DHQ website, the Nigerian troops entered Cameroun due to the sustained battle between the troops and the terrorists around the borders with Cameroun, which saw the Nigerian troops charging through the border in a tactical manoeuvre.

“Eventually they found themselves on Camerounian soil. Being allies, the normal protocol of managing such incidents demanded that the troops submit their weapons in order to assure the friendly country that they were not on a hostile mission,” DHQ explained.

According to the military, “The issues were sorted out following the necessary discussions between Nigerian and Camerounian military authorities.

“Subsequently, the troops are on their way back to join their unit in Nigeria. The reference to the incidence as a defection is therefore not appropriate considering the discussion between the two countries’ military leadership and the series of contacts with the soldiers who have confirmed that they are safe.”

DHQ further stressed that the Nigerian troops had repelled a group of terrorists who were trying to enter the country through Gamborou Ngala.   
It said a group who ventured into the town were pursued.

Sect Extends Territorial Grab in Adamawa

However, as the military scrambled to clarify the status of its soldiers in Cameroun, the sect extended its territorial grab in Adamawa State by taking over Madagali town.
Residents of the affected area said yesterday that since an attack on Saturday, the insurgents had defied the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the state government and now move in the town without fear.

Madagali town is close to Gwoza in Borno State, which was overrun by the terrorists and proclaimed as being part of an “Islamic Caliphate” on Sunday.

The residents said the insurgents had instructed them to defy the curfew and continue with their normal business without fear of attacks.

“They asked us to ignore the curfew, promising not to attack us. They told us that they are not after us, rather they are pursuing troops deployed to the area,” said a resident of the town who pleaded anonymity.

The source, who spoke in a whisper on the phone said, even residents who were able to cross the mountain and had fled to neighbouring Cameroun might have been arrested by Camerounian gendarmes.

“Many residents are now on the hilltops, while those that were able to cross over to Cameroun are reported to have been arrested by security operatives in the country.
“We are now finding it difficult to cross over, so many have decided to stay back here in the town, while Boko Haram members take over and hoist their flags.

“We are now living in an atmosphere of despair and agony,” said another resident.
Although this was not the first time Madagali area had been attacked, the latest attack on Saturday was said to be the deadliest with quite a number of residents feared killed, enabling the insurgents to establish a settlement there.

However, speaking to journalists on the phone, the Chairman of Madagali Local Government Area, Mr. James Abu Waltharda said civilian casualties had been minimal so far, but thousands of residents had been scattered across the state.
He said five churches were burnt by the assailants in Sabongari and Hembla settlements in Madagali.

FG Dismisses Boko Haram’s Claim on Gwoza

Meanwhile, in reaction to the proclamation made by the leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, in a video on Sunday, declaring Gwoza part of the Islamic Caliphate, the federal government yesterday said it would not sit and allow another republic in an already existing republic, adding that the “madness” is temporary.

The Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, made this assertion during an interview with defence reporters after his familiarisation tour of the Western Naval Command and Naval Training Command in Lagos, under the commands of Rear Admirals Ilesanmi Alade and Goddy Ayankpele, respectively.

On his twitter handle, Obanikoro also dismissed claims that Nigerian soldiers fled into Cameroun

In an interview with THISDAY, Obanikoro said: "There can never be a republic within a republic. The National Conference just ended and all responsible and reasonable Nigerians said we are all going to stay together, live together in peace and develop our country.

“The madness that we are witnessing today is such that it is temporary and be rest assured that we have all it takes to make it as temporary as possible.”

He said the military is fully geared to tackle and surmount the security challenges facing the country either in the North-east with Boko Haram or in the maritime domain under attack by pirates.

Speaking during the tour, Obanikoro added: “The military has a lot to do to develop Nigeria. I am happy with what they are now because instead of dabbling into politics, they have faced their responsibilities, which is protecting our territorial integrity. I thank you for opting to serve your country.

“I have noted some of your challenges and we will work on them especially those which require immediate and permanent solutions like the jetties.”

Obanikoro however frowned on the craving by navy personnel to be sent abroad for training, stating: “We noticed that you crave to be sent overseas a lot but if we invest more in our system, people will want to come to train with us in Nigeria and aspire to that level of development.

“When I was young, countries like Pakistan were at par with us and in some areas, we were even more developed than them but now, we are so backward that people now desire to travel to such countries. We need to do something about this and fast track our developmental process.”

On the nation's flagship, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) ARADU, he said all efforts were in top gear to ensure that the vessel is refitted and deployed back to sea to help in the fight against illegal maritime activities.

“In concrete terms, we will ensure the vessel is ready for use. I don't just make pronouncements, I take every step to actualise it. ARADU needs help for survival being our flagship. It therefore makes a lot of sense to develop it. I intend to follow up that advocacy,” he stressed.

Admitting that funds are an important factor in running a seamless armed forces, Obanikoro said: “We need to look within the system to ensure that the military is empowered for the good of the country.

“There is commitment from President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure this has started. We are having massive injection of funds for the acquisition of equipment that will raise the performance of our military across the board – navy, air force, army or police – to meet the challenges of the future.”

Speaking on the toll criminal activities in the maritime sector take on the nation's economy, he said: “The threat of piracy and sea robbery in our maritime domain is a challenge and we are taking it seriously. We cannot have piracy as a challenge in our maritime domain because 80 per cent of our economic activities revolve around our martime sector.

“A lot is being done to ensure that our men perform optimally in terms of capacity building and equipment acquisition. The president is doing that and I can assure you that it is an investment that will take Nigeria to the future.”

In a related development, the police said yesterday that they had rescued seven out of the 35 policemen who were declared missing following last week’s attack on the Mobile Police Training Academy in Gwoza.

The police, which made the statement on their twitter handle, said the search for 28 others still unaccounted for had been intensified.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     DHQ     Lt-Col Didier Badjek     Cameroun     Mr. James Abu Waltharda     Musiliu Obanikoro