The Nigerian Air Force has commenced an investigation into the reported killing of soldiers in airstrikes.
Over 20 soldiers were allegedly slain when a NAF fighter jet responding to attacks on a military camp by Boko Haram insurgents bombed the camp based on a wrong coordinate.
Scores of insurgents had attacked the military camp in Mainok during which over seven soldiers, including an officer, lost their lives.
But TheCable reported that many soldiers were also killed by airstrikes carried out by the NAF jet.
Reacting to the report on Monday, the NAF spokesman, Edward Gabkwet, an air commodore, said the incident was under investigation.
In a tweet on the official NAF Twitter handle, he said, “The attention of the @NigAirForce has been drawn to reports alleging “How NAF killed over 20 Nigerian Army personnel by accident in airstrike” at Mainok which is about 55km to Maiduguri.”
33 soldiers killed in Mainok attack – Sources
About 33 soldiers were on Sunday killed in the Mainok attack by members of the Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists group.
The soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel, were killed while the insurgents attacked the military base located in the town, about 60km to Maiduguri.
The lieutenant colonel was one the commanders operating along Auno-Jakana-Mainok-Benisheik axis of the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.
The insurgents, who wore military camouflage and drove into the town in 16 gun trucks, six mine-resistant vehicles, headed straight to the military base and started shooting at the soldiers.
Appeared to have been taken unawares, the soldiers fled their base for safety.
According to sources in Mainok, the insurgents also burnt down the police station, shops and houses in the town.
“The insurgents came in around 1:30pm and started shooting sporadically before heading to the military base, where they destroyed the sandbag at the entrance of the base. At the base, they killed over 10 soldiers, who were fleeing to safety,” one of the sources, Lawan Tuja said.
Tuja stated that the soldiers, who had put in spirited effort in fighting the insurgents, were overpowered by the insurgents because of the superior firepower at that their (insurgents) disposal.
“We saw the terrorists when they drove in. The troops of the Nigerian Army tried to contain them by fighting them for over one hour.
“The Air Force support came afterwards and unfortunately targetted the Nigerian troops instead of the insurgents, resulting in the death of over 20 soldiers.
“Gun trucks belonging to the Nigerian Army were burnt down too by the air support,” Tuja added.
Another resident, Modu Abba, said majority of the villagers ran in different directions into the bushes while many others, including him, left the town for Maiduguri for safety.
Insurgents seize Yobe town
Also, four days since their invasion of Geidam town in Yobe State, the insurgents are still in firm control of the town despite army’s claim that the insurgents had been repelled.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba is from Geidam.
According to local sources, the villagers fled the town and found their way to neighbouring communities where they are taking refuge.
Anwar Anas, an indigene of Geidam revealed that the village had been deserted by residents except the aged and other sick people who could not escape from the attack.
“My parents are in that town. Anybody that tells you that the attack was repelled is lying. They have remained in the town since they came some four days back.
“The problem with Geidam is that majority of the youths in the town are members of the terrorist group. They are part and parcel of the terror group. They know the town so well than the military and they know all the hideouts,” Anas said.
A top source within the security formation operating in Yobe State revealed to The PUNCH that the military was planning to bomb Geidam town because of the complex nature of the counter-insurgency fight in the town.
“I don’t want to contradict the statement by the military but the insurgents are still in Geidam. They are busy burning buildings and looting shops and food stores.
“I am aware too that the military is planning to bomb the town since the insurgents are making it difficult for the army to enter the town due largely to the involvement of the youths and other adults of Geidam town,” the source added.
One officer, five soldiers, several terrorists killed in Mainok – Army
However, the Army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, disclosed in a statement in Abuja on Monday that the terrorists in Mainok (Borno) were held by the gallant troops of 156 Task Force Battalion until the arrival of reinforcement teams from 7 Division, Special Army Super Camp Ngamdu and Army Super Camp 4, Benesheik.
The statement indicated that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed in Mainok, on Sunday came under multi-directional attacks from Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists.
It added that during the ensuing gun battle, scores of insurgents were killed while an officer and five soldiers paid the supreme price.
The statement further indicated that five soldiers were also injured during the attack on the army camp in the town.
Borno community panics as B’Haram launches fresh attack on Gwoza
In another development, information available indicates that Gwoza town in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State is under heavy attack by Boko Haram fighters.
The attack is coming barely 24 hours after the attack on Mainok town that resulted in the death of over 30 soldiers.
Though there are no details of the attack, this incident in Gwoza is the second in two months, just as indigenes of the community were said to be in a panic mode during the attack
During the last attack on Gwoza, the insurgents were neutralized by the troops, while several fighting equipments were recovered from them.
Zulum condoles with dead soldiers’ families
Meanwhile, the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, has condoled with the families of soldiers, who died at the weekend during a battle with Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents in Mainok, a town along Maiduguri-Damaturu highway.
Zulum, in a statement on Monday by his spokesman, Malam Isa Gusau, described the fallen soldiers as heroes, who died protecting the people of Borno and defending Nigeria’s sovereignty.