The air component of Operation Hadin Kai has destroyed a meeting venue of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) at Marte, Borno State, killing high ranking commanders of the terrorist group, military sources said.
This came as Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists killed a brigade commander, Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu, and three soldiers at a military base in Askira-Uba local government area of the state yesterday.
A top military source confirmed the killing of the commander.
The source added that the commander of the 28 Task Force was ambushed and killed on his way from Chibok local government area to Askira to reinforce troops fighting the ISWAP terrorists at the military base in the town.
Our correspondent also gathered from the military source that the terrorists had late evening of Friday killed three soldiers of the special forces and seized an armoured vehicle at Tomsukawu in Benisheik town of Kaga local government area of the state.
The source added that in the Askira- Iba attack, the ISWAP terrorists were on rampage due to the massive bombardment in some of their enclaves, adding that houses and a telecommunication mast were destroyed in the attack.
“They have been scrambling for food, drugs and other logistics for their wounded fighters,” the source said.
Some residents of Askira-Uba said they sighted the ISWAP fighters in a long convoy of gun trucks along Ngude axis towards Askira early yesterday, adding that they reported the movement to security forces but no action was taken before the group stormed Askira town hours later.
Confirming the Askira- Uba attack, deputy speaker of Borno House Assembly, Engr Abdullahi Musa Askira, said the insurgents and troops exchanged gunfire.
“I can confirm that ISWAP is currently attacking Askira town. I was reliably informed that our troops are fighting them, but the residents are in the bush.
“My people informed me that the terrorists came with about 16 gun trucks and there is confusion in the whole town now,” he said.
A member of the civilian JTF who spoke on condition of anonymity said immediately the attackers stormed the town, they went to the military base.
He said they were expecting a reinforcement from the nearby community as heavy gun battle raged.
“We are appealing to the authorities to send fighter jets to support the ground soldiers. We are outnumbered; we only have five gun trucks with us,” the CJTF source said.
Meanwhile, a source said the Air Component after receiving credible intelligence that ISWAP terrorists were converging at a location in Marte for a meeting in the Lake-Chad in Marte on Friday, NAF aircraft were deployed to survey and dislodge the gathering.
The source added that while observing the area, it was noticed that another boat came with more fighters surrounding a likely high-profile personality as seen from the way he was being followed around with a flag.
He said after confirming that the meeting was ongoing, the pilots got the go ahead to strike, adding that strike was devastating considering the very few terrorists that were observed fleeing the scene of the meeting.
According to local sources, several ISWAP fighters were killed, including high-ranking insurgent commanders, foot soldiers and Hisbah police of the ISWAP faction.
Other sources also confirmed that top ISWAP commanders that were at the scene included Muhammed Bako, Special Militant Forces Commander (Rijal Ann); Muhammad Malumma, a chief judge of Marte; Goni Mustapha, the chief imam.
Others included Muhammed Ba’ana, recently appointed Commander of Kirta; Muhammed Ali, Amir of Kwalaram; Ibn Umar, Chief Prosecutor; Bakura Gana, Commander of Jubularam; and Malam Musa, Amir of Jubularam among others were either injured or killed in the strike.
He said the military was yet to confirm if the new Wali, Shuwaram, was among those killed or injured.
Reacting, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was extremely saddened to hear about the death of Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and three soldiers which he described as a very rare display of gallantry as they tried to help their compatriots in the war against terrorists.
“Nigeria has lost brave soldiers. I salute their courage. May their souls rest in peace. General Zirkusu leaves us sad and devastated. The soldier in him will remain immortal,” he said.
The president in a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, urged the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, to accept his heartfelt condolences and that of the nation, and convey same to the members of the families.