The death toll in Wednesday’s deadly ambush by Boko Haram in Borno State may have risen to 33, reports from the area say.
The attack came in the implementation of a 40-day “clearance” operation declared by the Chief of Army Staff, Yusuf Buratai, in which he said he wanted Boko Haram leader dead or alive.
Fresh reports show that no fewer than 12 soldiers were killed while at least four out of 12 staff of the University of Maiduguri equally lost their lives. Two of the soldiers were officers, one of them identified as Lt. M. Medawa, who was due to be decorated on Thursday as Captain, a rank to which he was recently promoted.
In the ambush, some officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and members of staff of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) undertaking a research project concerning oil exploration in the area were abducted.
On Wednesday evening, military sources and local vigilantes said that some of those people have contacted their relations.Providing an update at about the same time, the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, said in the statement that as soon as information about the ambush reached the Brigade mobilized and sent reinforcement, search and rescue party that included the Armed Forces Special Forces and guides that worked and pursued the terrorists throughout the night.
“So far, they have rescued all the NNPC staff and recovered the corpses of the Officer, eight soldiers and a civilian have who have been evacuated to 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital,” he said. SaharaReporters has not independently confirmed how many of those who were abducted have regained their freedom.
Another military source, who requested anonymity, confirmed the arrival of the eight bodies in Maiduguri on Wednesday, with four more arriving at Maimalanri Cantonment on Thursday at about 6pm. [But it is not yet 6p.m Thursday!!]
In addition, top leader of the “civilian JTF” who participated in the evacuation disclosed that 11 members of their own group, including the chairman of the Magumeri Civilian –JTF branch, were also killed.
"We just came back from Magumeri this evening, 11 of our members are dead and some are currently receiving treatment at various hospitals," the top leader of the civilian group said.
Concerning those who have been reported to be safe, he said, “Some have called that they are in Damaturu, we strongly believe that the remaining ones will soon return. Let me tell you, this can't stop us; no hiding place for Boko Haram, we shall flush them out."
Local vigilantes also said that six of their members who were with the team of oil explorers and troops from Magumeri were also snatched in the ambush.
"Six of our members fell into the hands of their enemy, they are all from Magumeri branch of [the] local vigilante," a vigilante source told SaharaReporters.
In another development, a source at the University of Maiduguri said the younger brother of the Vice-Chancellor of the institution was among victims.
"I just received a phone call that [on Friday], there will be a funeral of the younger brother of our Vice Chancellor at UNIMAID central mosque, " that source said.
At the University of Maiduguri Teaching, a member of staff who works in the mortuary has also confirmed that four corpses were brought into the facility early on Thursday (Nigerian Time), identified to have been on the staff of UNIMAID.
He added, however, that two others on the UNIMAID staff had contacted their VC, saying they are receiving treatment at the military facility.
Earlier on Wednesday, SaharaReporters reported that many had been killed or were missing after suspected Boko Haram terrorists ambushed a convoy of troops, oil prospectors, University Geologists and others on Wednesday at Borno Yesu in Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno state.
In his update, Brigadier-General Usman said the ambush took place on Tuesday at about 3p.m., and that it involved the escorts as well as a team of NNPC staff returning from oil exploration at Borno Yasu, Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State.
Of the military response, he said, “The [search and rescue] team recovered 4 vehicles one of which includes a gun truck mounted with an Anti-Aircraft Gun, 2 white Hilux taken away from NNPC staff and 1 blue Hilux belonging to CJTF. They team also recovered large quantities of arms and ammunition, several spare tyres, many jerry cans of containing Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant, assorted drugs, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) making materials, reflective jackets and a Motorola handheld radio, among others. The team also neutralized many of the terrorists.”
Although he stressed that the troops are not relenting in their efforts, it is unclear how Tuesday’s ugly incident will impact the oil exploration efforts in the Lake Chad Basin.