Sunday, 28th November 2021 will surely go down in history as one of the most devastating days for the dreaded Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the West Africa Province (ISWAP) after they met their waterloo following an attack on the Forward Operation Base, Gajiram, in Nganzai Local Government Area of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria.
At about 5pm that fateful day, a very robust and formidable Boko Haram team commanded by one of their top most Amirs , Aliyu Bukar Ibrahima led an attack on the location with about 12 gun trucks, two Armoured Personnel Carriers suspected to have been stolen from security forces, several motorcycles and suicide bombers. They launched simultaneous attacks on several fronts, while the troops were at a state of high alertness alert at the base.
A long and fierce battle, however, ensued between the terrorists and the gallant troops who maintained their position until the Air Component of Operation Hadin Kai came in a swift response to the request of the Forward Operation Base Commander for air support. The intense display of force by the troops in conjunction with the air support forced the terrorists to withdraw.
Military sources said the withdrawing terrorists were however attacked by the Air Force using the newly acquired Super Tucano jets. Initially, 10 corpses of the terrorists were found while two gun trucks destroyed with one Shilka variant heavy gun recovered from the terrorists.
Meanwhile, early the next morning, the FOB Commander organised his men supported by the local partners , the civillian joint task force members for exploitation to ascertain the extent of damage where they discovered another seven bodies and four AK 47 rifles. Moving several kilometres, they discovered another 7 gun trucks destroyed and other corpses of the fleeing Boko Haram fighters.
At the end of the operations and exploitations, about 45 Boko Haram terrorists were confirmed killed including the leader of this force, nine enemy gun trucks destroyed,18 AK 47 rifles, one Shilka anti-aircraft gun, two PKT machine guns, 160 mm Commando Mortar and other military hardware.
Painfully, two soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in service to their country, with two other soldiers injured.
Gajiram is one of the big towns found on the Maiduguri-Monguno-Baga highway in the General Areas of the Lake Chad. This town which is in Nganzai Local Government Area has played host to several Internally Displaced Persons from other towns like Marte, Kukawa and other areas fleeing from the the Boko Haram insurgency.
There has always been a military base here but its close proximity to the Lake Chad has attracted several attacks by the terrorists. Analysts believe this town is important because it lies on the road to the tunbuns and to other towns of Borno and is a commercial outpost hence the repeated attacks on the town.
Perhaps in recognition of this , this location was designated a Forward Operation Base by the Military High Command in early 2021. It was also a former operations base of the Multinational Joint Task Force MNJTF Expeditionary Force, comprised of Nigerian and Chadian troops with the former General Officer Commanding GOC 7 Division, Major General AB Biu as Operations Commander.
This Force has been successful in neutralising the Boko Haram terrorists and eliminating their nefarious activities by their high mobility and cross country maneuvers.
However, in January 2020, this MNJTF Expeditionary Force was withdrawn as the Chadian forces returned to their country due to some political problems during the time of Late Chadian President,Field Marshall Idris Deby and this raised doubts as many analysts and the inhabitants questioned the ability of the Nigerian troops to fully contain the attackers in the absence of their Chadian allies.
From every indication, looking at the whole incident by the security forces shows that this is one of the most significant victory victories in recent times as the ground troops did not only exhibit doggedness, professionalism and coordination but called for air support which was not only delivered in record time, but was very effective in pursing and killing most of the attackers.
According to an informed source, interception of enemy communication confirmed that over 85% of the attackers did not make it back including the leader. They have, however, vowed to regroup and take revenge. To this end, there is the need for heightened alertness by the military. Commanders must coordinate for a sustained offensive by all the formations taking the battle to wherever they the terrorists are hiding.
Much as the inhabitants of Gajiram and the entire north east remain in apprehension, and the troops on high alert as usual, everyone must up their game. The Military High Command should as a matter of urgency make it a priority to close every loopholes that may count against this operation.
The Multinational Joint Task Force MNJTF and the Northeast Counter- insurgency Theatre, Operation Hadin Kai must be supported to carry out further clearance operations in addition to heightened intelligence gathering to root out not just the terrorists, but those behind them.
The officers and soldiers too must be commended for a job well done, the MNJTF, Operation Hadin Kai and the Nigerian Air Force for this remarkable synergy which was not there before. The timely intervention of the Air Component which deployed the Super Tucano jets to give a decisive victory to troops will remain a point of reference in future warfare. It is therefore hoped that this will be the beginning of the end of this insurgency which the nation has faced for more than one decade because, no country has ever benefitted from a protracted war.