…as Army denies killing of 30 soldiers
At least seventeen additional bodies of gallant Nigerian soldiers who lost their lives while preventing Boko Haram thugs from overrunning their base on Thursday evening have been recovered by a search and rescue team overseeing the aftermath of the attack,
The remains of one officer and 16 soldiers were recovered this weekend in the general area of Mobbar Local Government Area, Borno State, multiple military sources told. The soldiers were attacked at their base in Zari Village, north of Maiduguri and near the border with the Republic of Niger.
Troops from 145 Battalion who are leading the search and rescue efforts have transferred the bodies to Maiduguri, Borno State capital and heart of the Boko Haram’s campaign of terror, sources said.
Search and rescue operations have intensified for the remaining soldiers who are still missing in action as of Saturday night.
At least two officers and 46 soldiers have now been confirmed killed in the attack with the latest recoveries, which came a day after Premium Times reported that 31 soldiers had been confirmed killed and 19 wounded in the attack.
The attack is the deadliest against a unit since Boko Haram resumed its attacks against military formations in July.
Scores of Nigerian troops were killed in successive attacks between mid and late July, raising fresh concerns about a resurgent sect amongst top military chiefs. At least 90 soldiers have now been confirmed killed within the past six weeks.
The Army confirmed Zari attack occurred in a statement late Friday, but Onyema Nwakchukwu, a spokesperson for the theatre command in Maiduguri, initially said soldiers killed many Boko Haram insurgents when they repelled the attack.
But when told by Premium Times that there are confirmations that dozens of troops were killed, Nwachukwu, a colonel, said he did not immediately have details of military casualties.
“I am only aware of aerial bombardment and the response of the ground troops that left many Boko Haram fighters killed,” Nwachukwu said by telephone Saturday afternoon. “But I am not aware of soldiers’ casualties and I would not have such information until it gets to my desk.”
Nwachukwu could not be reached for comments about the additional recoveries Sunday afternoon, as his telephone line indicated it was switched off.
Chief spokesperson for the Nigerian Army, Texas Chukwu, who had largely refrained from commenting to the media on the attack, insisted no soldiers were killed in Zari on Thursday.
“No soldier was killed and nothing was recovered,” Chukwu, a brigadier-general, said Sunday afternoon when told that military responders have recovered fresh bodies and evacuated them to Maiduguri.
“We do not know where you are getting this information from.”
Chukwu also said Boko Haram casualties could not be confirmed because the insurgents usually carry bodies of their colleagues when fleeing from a fire fight.