The Nigerian Air Force on Friday provided details of how its aircraft repelled a major Boko Haram onslaught on a top military base, PREMIUM TIMES reports.
Premium Times reported how the Boko Haram sect attacked the headquarters of the 7 Brigade Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in Baga.
The attack on the fishing town is believed to have been executed by the Boko Haram faction also known as Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) on Wednesday.
The spokesperson of the Nigerian Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola, narrated how several aerial strikes were carried out on the terrorists during the attack.
“It may be recalled that the Headquarters 7 Brigade Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) Baga came under attack by members of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the evening of December 26,” Mr Daramola, an air commodore, said in a statement.
“Upon receipt of the information of the attack, the Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation LAFIYA DOLE immediately dispatched a NAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), platform along with two Mi-35M Helicopter Gunships to provide support for the troops to repel the attack.
“The NAF ISR aircraft, which was overhead the troops’ location as at 7.15pm, also worked closely with a NAF and another allied ISR aircraft that are also in the operation area at the time of the attack.
“The ISR platforms were in contact with the ground troops and assisted in directing their fire against the terrorists, while the helicopter gunships engaged the terrorists at isolated locations destroying some of their vehicles and neutralising some fighters,” he said.
Mr Daramola said the ATF also provided support for Nigerian Army (NA), and Nigerian Navy (NN) troops at the Naval Base at Doron Baga, “which equally came under attack by ISWAP fighters on the morning of December 27.”
According to Mr Daramola, the ATF deployed two ISR platforms, two helicopter gunships and two Alpha Jet aircraft to provide ISR and close air support to the troops.
“After establishing communication with the ground troops, the location of the terrorists was ascertained and engaged by the Alpha Jet aircraft.
“The NAF and allied ISR platforms also spotted two ISWAP vehicles heading southwards from Baga and vectored the Alpha Jet aircraft to attack the vehicles, completely destroying one of them and neutralising the occupants.
“In order to enhance the quality of coordination between the air and ground operations, the Theatre Commander and Maritime Component Commander were carried onboard the ISR platform during one of the flights,” he said.
The spokesman said in all, the ATF conducted 20 missions in 21 sorties with a total of about 39 hours flown on December 26 and 27 in support of operations in Baga general area.
“The NAF appreciates the existing synergy with our gallant surface forces as well as our Regional Allies in adding value to our collective efforts to protect our territory and people,” he said.
Also on Friday, the army said the terrorists tried to take the town but lost in the fight.
“Baga town is not in the hands of the Boko Haram. They contested it but they lost the contest,’’ Lamidi Adeosun, the Army’s Chief of Training and Operations said at a news conference in Maiduguri.
Mr Adeosun, a major general, said troops engaged the terrorists in a fierce battle to repel them.
“They terrorised the town and attacked the Headquarters of the 7 Brigade of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday,’’ he said.
Military sources had told PREMIUM TIMES that at the heat of the battle with the terrorists, soldiers fled Baga and the military base. Reinforcement troops sent to assist the soldiers were also ambushed by the terrorists.
A top air force official, however, told Nigeria, a news agency close to military authorities, that the soldiers’ withdrawal from Baga was tactical.
“The Nigerian Air Force in response to distress call quickly mobilised military aircraft and flew over 20 sorties Wednesday night and throughout Thursday. Some Boko Haram insurgents had earlier launched an attack at the military formation after tactical withdrawal of our troops,” PRNigeria quotes the source as saying.
“The NAF also launched a coordinated missile raid on the routes as the terrorists fled towards Doro-Baga and other axes.
“After the ground troops had withdrawn from the base, some of the insurgents moved in and pretended to be soldiers, before they were bombarded.”
The military is yet to state any casualty figure from the battles apart from admiting the death of one Navy personnel.
Boko Haram terrorists have in the past few months attacked military bases in Borno State, showing their ability to carry out attacks on not just civilian targets, contrary to the federal government’s claims.
Although the terrorists have been largely reduced to operating in three North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, their actions show a lot more needs to be done to defeat them.
President Buhari has repeatedly stated his administration’s commitment to ensuring their defeat.
The president on Friday restated this at the flag-off of his re-election campaign in Akwa Ibom.
“I assure you that eventually, we are going to clear them off from our country,” Mr Buhari said.