Multiple military sources have separately confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that a Boko Haram gunfire which erupted at a base of Nigerian soldiers in Borno State on Monday was far greater in severity than the military publicly admitted.
At least eighteen soldiers were confirmed killed, eight battling to survive at the hospital after being critically wounded and about 157 feared missing when insurgents raided an outpost of 157 Battalion in North-eastern Nigerian village of Metele, military sources said.
Those missing comprised 151 soldiers and six officers. The wounded were evacuated about 115 kilometres from Metele to the 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital, as well as the remains of the 18 killed in action, sources said.
Heavy military equipment including at least two T-72 tanks, two armoured personnel carriers and two gun trucks were either set ablaze or rendered “unserviceable” by the insurgents, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
The Nigerian Army acknowledged the attack on Twitter late Monday, saying the heavy firefight was ongoing even though it appeared to have ended at that time having been on for about seven hours before the tweet was posted, according to military sources.
In an update on Wednesday, the army confirmed also on Twitter that soldiers sustained losses, but put the casualties at seven for troops and seventy six for the insurgents. It also said sixteen soldiers were wounded.
But the army did not acknowledge that scores of soldiers remained unaccounted for, and their commanders already feared they had gone missing in action. The commanders also confirmed that 18 soldiers were killed, contrary to only seven which the army publicly owned up to.
Before the attack, at least 15 officers and 470 soldiers were on ground at the base in Metele, a strength that was significantly depleted in the aftermath.
Ahmed Dikko, the theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, visited the Kinnasara Cantonment to rally the troops on Tuesday, informing them about what transpired in Metele before visiting the wounded at the hospital.
It was not immediately clear how military authorities are treating the case of the 157 missing soldiers. The chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai, warned a few weeks ago that there would be harsh consequences for any soldiers who abandoned their position in the face of firepower from Boko Haram.
The warning followed weeks of heavy military losses in a war President Muhammadu Buhari and military chiefs had long proclaimed victory. Scores of soldiers have been killed or wounded in action and hundreds missing in a string of insurgents’ assaults on military bases since July.
The Boko Haram insurgency has caused the death of about 100,000 people since 2009, according to the Borno State Government, whose state is most affected by the insurgency.
Due to the efforts of the military and other security agencies, the terror attacks been largely limited to Adamawa, Borno and Yobe since 2016. Before then, attacks were carried out in many Northern Nigerian states including Kano, Nasarawa and Abuja.
Despite the efforts of the military, however, the latest attacks show the terrorists are still able to carry out attacks on civilian and military targets.