A few hours after Boko Haram fighters dislodged Nigerian troops in Dikwa, Borno state, and took over the community, army spokesperson, Mohammed Yerima, falsely claimed the attack was repelled by the soldiers.
Yerima in a statement also debunked the reports by some newspapers, including SaharaReporters that the terrorists attacked the United Nations hub.
He described the reports as false and sensational, saying they were clearly aimed at stirring tension in the region and diminishing the glaring efforts and sacrifices of the military in the fight against insurgency.
Yerima had said, “The troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE have decisively routed elements of Boko Haram Terrorists and their Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) counterpart who attempted to infiltrate and attack Dikwa town in Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State.
“The terrorist groups who stormed the town in an unconfirmed number of gun trucks and motorcycles were visited with heavy bombardment and overwhelming firepower by troops of 81 Task Force Battalion with reinforcement from other formations of the Nigerian Army and aided by air support of Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE.
“The terrorists attempted to invade the town to loot food items and other logistics having got wind of the recent food distribution to residents of the town by the state governor, Professor Babagana Zulum.
“They came in their droves through the Marte axis but could not gain access to the town due to the combat readiness of troops who were positioned there. The terrorists subsequently lost the initiative as they were cut off completely following the recent successful recapture of Marte town by the gallant troops.
“In desperation and to scare off residents from returning to their homes, they planted series of landmines on the roads which were also detected and successfully detonated by troops.
“Consequently, the Army Headquarters wishes to debunk the unsubstantiated reports on social media suggesting that the terrorists attacked UN Base in Borno, trapping 25 aid workers as published by some outlets.
“Those false and sensational reports are clearly aimed at stirring up tension in the region and diminishing the glaring efforts and sacrifices of the Nigerian military in the fight against insurgency.”
Meanwhile, military sources told SaharaReporters that the insurgents stormed the town around 5:30 pm on Monday and took over the community, while the Nigerian troops retreated to Ajiri, a town under the Mafa Local Government Area of the state.
The insurgents then breached the security of the UN hub in Dikwa and laid siege to the facility, causing humanitarian workers and guests to retreat to hide within the facility.
The gunmen who came with heavy machine guns and trucks, also took possession of the military formation, including high-profile fighting equipment and vehicles.
The group also razed some public buildings, including the primary health care centre, local government secretariat, part of Shehu of Dikwa’s palace, and the UN hub.
The insurgents however pulled out of the town on Tuesday after having control for hours and killing many soldiers.
“About fifteen soldiers were killed by the gunmen, we earlier thought they were five but more than fifteen bodies have been recovered so far. Some civilians were killed as well,” a source told SaharaReporters on Friday.
The attack was also confirmed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, UN-OCHA.
UN- OCHA Coordinator, Edward Kallon in a statement said he was enraged by the attack and was concerned with the safety of civilians and aid workers in the town.
He called for adequate and maximum security of civilians and aid workers in the region.
“I am gravely preoccupied by reports on an ongoing violent attack by non-state armed groups in Dikwa, Borno State, during which several aid facilities were directly targeted. The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze and sustained damage,” he said.
“I strongly condemn the attack and deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.
“The violent attack will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State.
“Civilians and aid workers, their facilities and assets should never be a target. They must be protected and respected at all times. I call on all armed parties to immediately stop the violence and respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and ensure the protection 0f civilians, humanitarian and personnel.”
This is not the first time the army would be denying an attack by Boko Haram on Nigerian troops.
In February, Yerima described a report by SaharaReporters titled; “Nigerian Army Keeps Mum As Boko Haram Terrorists Kill ‘20 Soldiers’ In Borno” as false, fake, and baseless.
He said the report was aimed at discouraging the public and demoralising troops in the fight against insurgency.
However, multiple military sources confirmed to SaharaReporters that about 20 soldiers were killed in the attack by the militant group in Malari, Borno State.
The soldiers were said to be on patrol to clear some Boko Haram elements in the area following credible intelligence when they were ambushed by the insurgents.
A senior military officer said the gunmen subsequently engaged the troops with overwhelming firepower, killing about 20 soldiers.
The terrorists also destroyed about three operational vehicles of the Nigerian army.