“A soldier was beheaded by terrorists who took cover in the community after the dastardly act. At another time soldiers were ambushed by the insurgents during which a soldier was killed and the terrorists were shielded by members of the community. –Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye, Commander of the MJTF.
About five days after the military sacked Baga community on the Nigerian border with Chad, Niger and Cameroun, the army has given details of reasons behind the military operation.
Speaking on Wednesday, Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force, Brigadier-General Austin Edokpayi, said the operation was necessary because the Baga Community was increasingly becoming a safe haven for militants who were attacking the MJTF at will and escaping into the comminity.
He said during one of such provocations in the past, a soldier was beheaded in the town by the terrorists who took cover in the community after the dastardly act.
He equally said at another time, soldiers were ambushed by the insurgents during which a soldier was killed and the terrorists were shielded by the members of the community.
Edokpayi said though the terrorists have always come to Baga to tax the people of the town, no formal complaint have been brought to his men even as the residents of the town continue to shield the sect members.
The commander said that the military had intelligence report of the weekend attack on soldiers and when the people of the town were approached for assistance it never came.
He said: “The terrorists have been taxing the people for so long and we have had information that they were prepared to attack us an information which we confronted the people with but they denied.”
Edokpaye, who claimed that the weekend conflagration was never the making of the military but rather due to the weapon deployed by the insurgents, said the military was at no time unprofessional in it’s task in the area.Residents of Baga in Kukawa Local Government area of Borno,where over 185 persons were reportedly killed in the deadly confrontation at the weekend between the Boko Haram sect members and soldiers of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) are in search of their relatives who have gone missing.
The search for the missing residents of the commercial town which borders Niger, Chad and Cameroon continues just as a large part of it has been cordoned off by the military which has made movement within and outside the town difficult.
The military authority has also disclosed that many of the insurgents who attacked the soldiers during the deadly clash have been arrested and in custody.
It was also gathered from the town that searches were on as of yesterday for some of the insurgents as there was house to house search for the fleeing members of the sect.
The commander of the MJTF, Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye said his men have arrested a substantial number of the people who led the attack.
Edokpaye claimed that the soldiers have exercised restraint for so long under intense provocation from the insurgents and that last weekend clash was highly provoked.
In a related development, the military came out with the numbers of casualties recorded during the Baga clash.
The Multi National Joint Task Force in a statement by it’s commander, Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye claimed that 37 persons including a soldier were killed and that 15 persons, 5 soldiers and 10 civilians were included.
Among the civilians killed, Edokpaye said, 30 were insurgents while the other six civilians were caught in the crossfire.
He further disclosed that recovered arms and ammunitions include three rocket propelled grenade launchers, two rocket propelled grenade bombs, four AK 47 rifles, 435 ammunitions, several quantities of IED materials, three damaged Land Cruiser vehicles belonging to the terrorists.
The commander said that contrary to media speculation that hundreds of houses were burnt, it was the explosion from the Boko Haram terrorists bombs that triggered the fire that torched “30 thatched houses in the predominantly fishing community.”
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has deployed a team of its officers and stakeholders to provide medical and relief assistance to the affected people in the area.
Director General of NEMA Muhammad Sani Sidi said the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan had directed the Agency to urgently provide immediate succor to the people.
He said the NEMA team led by its Director of Search and Rescue Air Commodore Charles Otegbade has been dispatched to Baga with necessary medical assistance as well as food items to cater for the displaced persons that are now taking refuge in various camps. The team has already arrived Borno and is working together with the Borno State Government.