By Sunday Isuwa and JOY YESUFU,
There were indications last night that the Nigerian Military may have closed in on the leader of the Boko haram sect, Abubakar Shekau, as the 40-day ultimatum given the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen Ibahim Attahiru, by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, expired yesterday.
Buratai had on July 22, 2017 given the Operation Lafiya Dole 40 days to capture Shekau dead or alive.
“Attahiru should employ all arsenal at the disposal of the Theatre Command to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria” urging the general public to also assist and volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task”, A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, quoted the COAS as saying.
The arrest of a high profile member of the Boko Haram factional group loyal to Abu Musad Al-Barnawi, few weeks ago, raised hope among officers, ranks and file of the military that Shekau has been captured, only to be discovered later that it was a mistaken identity.
Following the expiration of the 40-days ultimatum given the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole yesterday, there are hopes that Abubakar Shekau is not far from being captured.
Although the Army spokesman, Brig Gen Sani Kukasheka Usman, could not immediately respond to enquiries, a security expert told our correspondent that it was possible that the Nigerian Military is close to capturing Shekau or any other person mimicking him.
“I can tell you confidentially that the Sambisa Forest which used to be the Boko Haram enclave has now been surrounded, both on the air and in the land. Surveillance is in full force. There have been serious efforts to capture Shekau and soon, Nigerians will soon see the result”, he said.
It will be recalled that there have been several reports on the Killing of the Boko Haram terrorist’s leader, Shekau.
The Nigerian military had in the past said Boko Haram was using look-alike fighters to mimic Shekau who died after sustaining injuries in the past, died.
In 2009, Shekau was reportedly killed along with 1000 other Boko Haram members. His videos later emerged.
There were also reports of the killing of Shekau in Kano in 2011, and in 2013, an Army spokesman announced the killing of Shekau between July 25 and August 3.
Also, Nigerian and Cameroonian military sources had in 2014 showed a video of someone like Shekau who was killed after a battle.
In September 2014, Army said it killed Shekau during an operation in Konduga, while in 2016, there were reports that Shekau was wounded during an air strike.
Recently, an ex acclaimed Boko haram commander, Abdulkadir Abubakar, arrested in Buni Yadi revealed that the sect leader (Shekau) has left Sambisa Forest and is now hiding in Mandara Mountain.
Abubakar also promised to help the military capture Shekau and also broker peace between the sect’s two factions and the federal government.
He said “I am cooperating with the military and I am ready to provide information on the whereabouts of Shekau. Shekau has left his enclave in Sambisa and moved deep into Mandara Mountain. I know the area where he is hiding and willing to provide a guide to the military.
“The intensified military offensive has weakened Shekau’s position and that of the other groups”.
The former commander also accused Shekau of frustrating all the efforts to negotiate with the government.
He said, “Shekau is not willing to surrender due to his high handedness. Unfortunately, the government and military authorities accorded priority on dealing with Shekau, who is blood thirsty”.
As the 40-days ultimatum expires with new lead from the arrested ex-commander of the sect, there are fillers that the military may have closed in on Shekau and will soon be revealed to the world.
Army Arrests 313 Boko Haram Terrorists, Kills 82 Others
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army testerday said it has killed 82 Boko Haram terrorists and arrested 313 others as well as rescued 630 civilians and cleared 630 settlements in Borno and other insurgency-affected areas of the Northeast in the past one month .
Theatre Commander, Command and Control Centre of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, disclosed to journalists at an update on counter insurgency operations in the Northeast sub-region.
Gen Attahiru who said that several ammunitions were recovered from the operations added that the effort was not without a price, as six soldiers were killed, while five others were wounded in action.
He said in the cause of the operation, the Army recovered 17 automatic weapons and 14, 771 rounds of ammunition, either found along bush paths or under the rocks at Borno Yesu in Magumeri and around Madara mountain areas in Gwoza local government area of Borno State .
On what the military is doing with regards to the rescue of the three UNIMAID staff abducted while on oil exploration mission by Boko Haram at Yesu district in Magumeri , as well as the 14 women abducted along Maiduguri – Damboa road on 29th of June this year while conveying home the remains of late Police officer , the Theatre Commander said the Army and Borno State Police Command is making every effort to ensure that the victims are rescued.
Atahiru said, “In the same month under review, we have a total number of 69 Boko Haram fighters who denounced their membership of the sect and surrendered themselves to our troops in various locations in Borno.
“The military has arrested 313 Boko Haram militants who are currently undergoing investigation. Among them are a number of children willingly donated by their parents to carry out suicide missions for the Boko Haram terrorists group.
“Recent intelligence reports on the infiltration of fleeing Boko Haram terroriststs into some major towns and communities have led to series of cordon and search operations within Maiduguri and its environs as well as other major towns.
“The cordon and search operations are being conducted by own troops in conjunction with personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, as well as the Civilian Joint Task Force and it is still on-going.
“It was during one of these cordon and search operations that the unfortunate incident of 10th August this year where troops searched a building that was later reported to be UN Agency premises was recorded. It is gladdening to state that the incident has been amicably resolved and steps have been jointly taken to prevent a recurrence” he added.
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