The Nigerian military has launched a military offensive aimed at putting pressure on the Islamist militant group Boko Haram as well as rescue unarmed civilians kidnapped by the militants, according to military spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman.
“We still have remnants of Boko Haram hibernating inside Sambisa Forest so the essence of it is to clear the remnants of Boko Haram in that forest and also intensify our rescue operation and so far the operation is progressing very well. Even though, the other time the [militants] attempted to attack our position…But of course our troops rose to the occasion, and dealt decisively with Boko Haram militants to the point of killing quite a number of them and recovered weapons anti-aircraft guns, and of course mortal bombs like 81 millimeter, ” said Usman.
His comments follow reports that the United States is considering selling 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria to help the West African country in the fight against Boko Haram.
Washington had refused to sell weapons to former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration over concerns of human rights abuses by the military.
Critics of the Nigerian government say Islamic militants are active and still attacking civilians and soldiers, despite government pronouncements that Boko Haram has been effectively defeated. They have also engaged in suicide bombings using civilians they had abducted.
Usman disagreed. He said the military has been able to thwart numerous attacks from Boko Haram. He said a lot of the militants have either been killed or surrendered to the Nigerian military adding that groups is a shell of itself, incapable of seizing territories.
“If you look at it, the Boko Haram militant caught virtually everybody unawares because let’s say six years ago nobody in Nigeria ever thought that we will have a problem of terrorism let alone the magnitude of Boko Haram terrorism as it were…Within a short period of time let’s say from July last year up to this moment, all those gains made by the Boko Haram have been reversed to the point that we have even recaptured not only the villages and towns they hitherto called their caliphate including their spiritual headquarters.”
Soldiers walk among the ruins of the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, March 25, 2016.
Asked about the efforts to locate and free the abducted Chibok school girls and others kidnapped by the militants, Usman said the military is still working hard to bring the girls back home to their families. He said the military has been able to rescue Boko Haram kidnapped victims including foreigners.
“We have been able to rescue over 12,000 people and I believe that we have more people that are being held hostage by the Boko Haram militant in some of these their hideouts… We have been working to also ensure that we rescue them, including the abducted Chibok school girls. And we are hopeful, definitely, wherever they are we will definitely rescue them,” said Usman.