As the military continued its quest to dislodge the Boko Haram terrorists from the north eastern part of the country, the Defence Headquarters Friday said that soldiers have taken over all the camps where the insurgents operated from in Northern and Central parts of Borno State.
This was even as the military said yesterday that soldiers would soon carry out a military exercise code-named Operation Thunderstorm ‘on the Abuja-Jere-Kaduna expressway.
Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade who spoke in an interview with newsmen, also said that troops on the special operations, stormed the notorious Sambisa forest area and rescued six children and three women kidnapped by the terrorists about three weeks ago.
According to Brig-General Olukolade who was part of a seven- man Assessment Team led by Maj-General Lawrence Ngubane, that visited the operation areas in the last three days, the troops were currently combing the vast Sambisa forest which is about 16 square kilometres.
Olukolade said that the team discovered during the assessment visit, that most of the Boko Haram camps contained dormitories where the terrorists slept, hospitals, fuel dumps, vehicles, materials for manufacturing Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDS, and vehicles either stolen or snatched.
Explaining that the operation to rid Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states of terrorists was being carried out in phases, he further noted that the exercise was being carried out in accordance with the rules of engagement, as there had been no civilian casualty since the terrorists camps were located either at the outskirts of town, or the Sambisa forest and bushes.
Olukolade said that civilians running across the borders or elsewhere were free to do so provided they were not terrorists, armed or carrying IEDS or ammunition.
His words, “During our visit to the operational areas, we confirmed that our troops have taken over all the camps where Boko Haram terrorists operated from in the northern and central parts of Borno State. Our soldiers did a thorough and professional job.
“Efforts by the troops, after overrunning three terrorists camps in the notorious Sambisa forest area of Central Borno led to the freeing of nine persons, six children and three women.
“The women and children who were kidnapped from police barracks and environs during the May 7 attack on Bama, had been held in the camp since their abduction and were featured in the video by Abubakar Shekau recently who said they will not be freed. Troops combing the forest are however yet to locate one woman and her two children. As for people crossing to the border, if civilians run across the border and they are not terrorists, we do not have any problem with that.
“The operation is solely targeted at terrorist camps and enclaves in the forests, bushes and other outskirts. If you are found in a camp or enclave or you are found with arms, ammunition or IED, you cannot tell us that you are a civilian.”
Describing the response of Boko Haram terrorists to the military onslaught as ‘’feeble,’’ Olukolade said however that going by the weaponry recovered after the camps were overrun, “They have graduated from light weapons to heavy weaponry like anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, mounted long range guns and sophisticated explosives”.
On the response of the people of the areas that have so far been liberated from the terrorists, Olukolade said, “The people spoken to described Boko Haram as invaders. They said most of them are not Nigerians; that they are from Chad, Niger. They expressed joy at seeing Nigerian soldiers come to their rescue. Our troops have complied with the rules guiding the operation. We went there out of concern to be sure there are no violations of any kind. There is no civilian casualty. The society is isolated from any form of crisis except at the camps and they are located at the outskirts.
Meanwhile, a statement signed yesterday by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Army Headquarters Garrison, Lt. Col. A. Ochagwuba said that the ‘’Operation Thunderstorm exercise will mark the end of a six-weeks rigorous training that began on April 8.’’
The exercise which involves movement of military equipment and troops, as well as military demonstrations will be conducted in the area of Sabon Wuse along the Abuja-Kaduna road.
Consequently, the Army has appealed to residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to bear with it, as it conducts its operations in the area.
“The exercise which is in line with Chief of Army Staff’s, COAS, vision is designed to teach young soldiers skills and techniques required to deal with contemporary security challenges in a counter terrorism setting such as urban and rural operation, identification and handling of IEDs.
“The general public is advised not to panic when firing is heard in the exercise area or see troops’ movement in the area. The exercise will end up with battle inoculation in Kachia May 29,” the statement added.
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