MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA, - Nigerians in the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe are mourning the death of a military commander who was fatally wounded in an ambush by Boko Haram militants and remembered as a hero.
Colonel Dahiru Bako and his troops were attacked by militants Sunday morning near Damboa, a community in southern Borno state. In fierce fighting, Bako was severely wounded and three of his soldiers were killed, said Col. Ado Isa, a spokesman for the Nigerian Army’s 7th Division.
He said in a statement that Nigerian troops killed “scores of terrorists” and recovered weapons and equipment. VOA could not independently verify the death toll.
Bako was taken by helicopter to a military hospital in Maiduguri, Borno state’s capital, for treatment, but died Monday. He was buried Tuesday at a military cemetery in Maiduguri.
Speaking at Bako’s funeral, Nigeria’s army chief, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, credited his leadership of a special military unit countering the Boko Haram insurgency. He said Bako led many successful raids, and he described the late soldier as a hero.
So did Muna Jibrin, who told VOA that Bako saved her from militants while she was in the throes of childbirth back in December 2014. The militants had overrun the Maryam Abacha maternity hospital in Damaturu.
“All the patients and staff of the hospital ran away, leaving only I and my auntie stranded because I couldn’t walk,” Jibrin recalled. “It was the late Colonel Bako and his team who came to our rescue.”
Bako and his troops drove off the assailants and escorted the women to safety at their family home several kilometers away.
Jibrin’s child, Abubakar, now nearly 6, “heard a lot about Colonel Bako’s bravery. I pray for his soul,” he told VOA on Wednesday. The boy said he wants to become a soldier.
Borno state’s governor, Babagana Zulum, on Wednesday presented Bako’s widow with a check for 20 million naira, worth $51,614. The families of the three other slain Nigerian soldiers received checks for 2 million naira, a military official told VOA.
Since 2011, Boko Haram has killed more than 37,500 people and displaced 2.5 million others in the Lake Chad Basin, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker.
This report originated in VOA’s Hausa Service.