A military source says that Chadian and Nigerien troops are in charge of security and protection of the border town of Damasak in Borno State under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) against terrorism in Nigeria’s north east.
The disclosure, which was made to PRNigeria, comes as Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters announced it had restrained two unaccredited Al Jazeera journalists to their hotel rooms in Maiduguri after they were found ‘loitering’ around operational areas of the north east.
PRNigeria said the clarification became necessary in view of ongoing speculation in the international media that another 400 children and women were kidnapped Boko Haram terrorists while fleeing from Damasak, which was recently liberated by Chadian and Nigerien troops.
The military official who spoke with PRNigeria wondered how fleeing terrorists who were pounded by Nigerian Air Force aircraft before being overwhelmed by forces from the two MJTF participating troops were able to snatch over 400 individuals along with them in the process.
“We are not officially responding to such baseless assertions because it has become normal for some interests to manufacture something so that their media will have something negative to report about Nigeria,” the source said. “It is nevertheless important to let them know that troops from Niger and Chad have been in charge of protecting that town and we wonder how they would have allowed Boko Haram the luxury of such mass kidnapping?
“Were the abducted individuals herded away on foot or packed in trailers or small trucks?” the source wondered.
The two Al Jazeera Television journalists who were found to have been ‘loitering’ in areas of military operations are being confined to Maiduguri.
In a statement published on defenceinfo.mil.ng, Defence Headquarters identified the men as Ahmed Idris and Mustafa Andy, and said they were found to have been moving around various locations including restricted areas in Yobe and Borno State without any protection, accreditation or due clearance.
It said they were monitored by military intelligence operatives until they eventually had to be restrained to their hotel in Maiduguri.
“This followed the increasing suspicion that their activities were aimed at interfering with the ongoing military operations in the area,” the statement said, adding that the motive, activities and some material in possession of the two men were being investigated.
According to PRNigeria, “It will be recalled that foreign journalists have (sic) earlier been cautioned against unauthorised and unprotected movements around the military operations area. This warning is hereby reiterated until formally reversed or lifted. Appropriate arrangements will however continue to be made to assist duly cleared journalists to cover activities in the mission area within the limits of adequate safety, security and necessary procedures.
“The Nigerian military which believe in the press freedom is more concerned about safety of journalists operating in Nigeria and would endeavour to avoid unnecessary controversy in other climes especially when some Al Jazeera journalists were tried and jailed in Egypt for aiding terrorism during the turbulent days of Islamic Brotherhood’s reign in the country.”