From Timothy Olanrewaju Maiduguri
Residents of Mainok, a Borno town, have recounted how Boko Haram insurgents invaded the military base in the community, in a coordinated attack last Sunday.
Some said they had mistaken the convoy of operational vehicles, including gun trucks and armoured vehicles with some men in military wear, entering the 156 Task Force Battalion at Mainok, at about 1pm last Sunday, as soldiers from the battlefield. They said they were, however, shocked when a rain of gunshots clouded the air at the base, minutes later.
“I saw some Hilux trucks with guns and some men like soldiers. There was an armoured tank in front and another at the back. We didn’t know they were Boko Haram until we started hearing gunshots around the camp and some soldiers or Boko Haram insurgents fleeing,” Ba’ana Mustapha, a Mainok resident, told Daily Sun.
He said soldiers at the entrance of the base may have been deceived to assume the gun trucks and other vehicles in military desert colour were their colleagues, probably from another base, on special operations.
Like the Metele attack on a military base late 2018, the insurgents were erroneously welcomed into the 156 Task Force Base with ease.
Two other residents, Abdullahi Kaumi and Aji Masta, corroborated Mustapha’s account of the invasion.
A CJTF member told Daily Sun, on condition of anonymity, that the insurgents headed to the office of the Commanding Officer of the base, one Lieutenant Agba, and shot him severally before proceeding for a major onslaught on the troops. Some of the soldiers were said to have just returned to the base from their duty post when the insurgents arrived.
“They came in armoured vehicles, we saw them passed, but never knew they were Boko Haram,” he said.
He said the support from Beneshiek military base, about 20 minutes later, could not save the situation as the insurgents set ablaze the base, leaving behind heavy casualties.
Security sources said 23 soldiers with the CO died in the attack, though military authority put the casualty figure at six. Some of the victims were reported to have been mistakenly hit by the air force jet in the ensued confusion.
Sources blamed poor communication among the commanders and troops in the theatre of the counter-insurgency operation as responsible for the heavy casualties. They also alleged the presence of informants, either within the base or the host community.
He said the military should have learnt from the Metele experience and ensured no unauthorised vehicle was allowed into a military zone.