The Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has lost one of its major enclaves –the famous Mandara Mountain – in Borno State to soldiers as the assault on the insurgents intensifies across the Northeast.
An unspecified number of insurgents were killed in sustained raids in and around the mountain while about 60 were arrested.
The troops are still combing the mountain to fish out Boko Haram leaders and fighters believed to be hiding there.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, both of whom have temporarily relocated to Borno State, are personally leading land and air assaults against the sect in Borno .
In the midst of the gains, the Defence Headquarters confirmed yesterday its arrest of a suspected terrorist who claims to be a Cameroonian and an arms courier for Boko Haram.
The arrest of the suspect has led to the discovery of a large cache of arms and ammunition hidden in the premises of a burnt church.
Some of the recovered arms were anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled guns, General Purpose and other brands of machine guns
A top military source,shedding light on the capture of Mandara Mountain said :”As I talk to you, our troops have captured Mandara Mountain and they are combing the caves in the place to smoke out the terrorists.
“During the encounters, many insurgents were killed and an appreciable number of them arrested.
“Since Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu have been directly in charge of the operation. While the Air Chief is guiding the air operation, the chief of army staff is leading the land campaign.
“So, you can see that these service chiefs are providing leadership for the troops in order to ensure that we win the war against the insurgents.”
Asked about a letter purportedly written by Boko Haram to the military threatening to attack Maimalari Barracks, the source said: “The military authorities have not been informed of that but it won’t be strange if they do so because that is their pattern.
“They are certainly frustrated because as the operation is continuing their fighters are dying and many members of the Boko Haram have been arrested.
“So far, more than 60 insurgents have been arrested in the last five days. We are still on the trail of more of them.”
The Defence Headquarters yesterday confirmed the arrest of a Cameroonian who is said to be central to the operation and management of Boko Haram armoury.
Spokesman for DHQ, Gen. Chris Olukolade, said: “The arrest of a terrorist who claims to be a Cameroonian and an arms courier for the group has led to the discovery of a large cache of arms and ammunition hidden in the premises of a burnt church.
“The weapons, which have now been recovered by troops include anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled guns as well as the General Purpose and other brands of machine guns , were found buried in the premises of one of the churches earlier burnt by terrorists in Kalabalge Local Government Area of Borno state.
“Also recovered from the location were thousands of ammunition and links. The middle aged man who led troops on the cordon and search operation towards the recovery was one of the terrorists captured in recent raids”.
Olukolade said that the weapons were stockpiled to be used in a pending attack on some communities around Nigeria- Cameroon border.
The weapons have all been evacuated while Guard locations and patrols are being maintained in the general area and the surrounding localities.
The military claims could not be independently verified.
On the operation in Borno State, the DHQ said: “troops have continued with various operations assigned to the formations involved in the counter terrorist campaign.
“The caves of a particular mountain captured overnight are undergoing a thorough search for terrorists who are believed to have fled there in the wake of the ongoing offensive on various terrorist enclaves. Arms are also the object of the cordon and search.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Kenneth Minima has been checking on deployment and troops disposition in various locations of the theatre of the counter terrorist campaign in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
“The army chief who is in company of his Air Force counterpart, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, also visited troops who were wounded in the course of the operation so far, in the Military Hospital in Maiduguri.
“The Chiefs were assured by the commander of the Hospital, Brig-Gen Okeke that most of the wounded soldiers were in stable condition and that some who have recovered very well, expressed their desire to rejoin their units and colleagues in the operation.
“The army chief however directed that the hospital should not hesitate to let him know the requirement for any case requiring referral or further treatment anywhere.
“The service chiefs are also undertaking a comprehensive air surveillance of the entire mission area in addition to the direct inspection of some key locations where operations are being conducted.”