Troops sent to evacuate the remains of the soldiers killed when the fighters of the Islamic State West African Province last Sunday attacked the Nigerian Army 157 Battalion’s base in Metele, Borno State, were ambushed by the insurgents and had to beat a tactical withdrawal, Punch reports.
A military source told the newspaper on Saturday that the troops that were sent to evacuate the remains of the slain soldiers came under attack by terrorists.
The source said, “As of yesterday, around 10am, troops from 7 Brigade Baga went to Kangarwa 119 Task Force Battalion Defence Company’s location to recover three armoured tanks. They were ambushed and the insurgents carted away the tanks.
“The corpses of those killed in Metele are still not evacuated and the soldiers that went for the evacuation were 147. They were attacked at the entrance to Metele,” said the source who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity.
“A captain was captured alive by the insurgents; the insurgents killed six soldiers from the company with seven soldiers still missing.”
He said apart from human loss, “the soldiers that went for the evacuation lost a battle tank and a gun truck to the insurgents.”
On the initial attack on Metele, he said, “Last Sunday’s attack on Metele, on the 157 Task Force Battalion, Metele, led to the loss of six officers and 56 soldiers, the eagle battle tanks, APC, riffles, mortars and bombs were all taking away by the insurgents.”
According to him, the company was able to evacuate six corpses in spite of the ambush.
A week after the Matele attack, scores of dead and missing soldiers had yet to be located as air assets have been reportedly deployed in the area for search and rescue, military sources told the newspaper.
It is gathered that the troops have found it difficult to evacuate the decomposing bodies of soldiers.
Meanwhile, some soldiers, who survived the attack in Metele have sent a Save-Our-Soul to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to probe the quality of weapons procured by the military authorities, so as to save them from further avoidable deaths.
In a video sent to journalists in Maiduguri, the soldiers accused the military authorities of negligence and of supplying them with obsolete weapons, which they said were grossly inadequate to fight insurgents in the North-East.
In the video, two soldiers, who claimed to be among the survivors of the attack, bemoaned the poor condition of the troops and obsolete equipment.
“See what the Nigerian Army has been doing to us. They brought us here. See how they killed our fellow soldiers, they burnt them inside the tanks,” a narrator in the video said.
“They are using us to make money; why? Are we not human beings? They can kill soldiers inside a tank. If Rocket Propelled Grenade can penetrate M-RAG vehicle, what of a fellow human being?
“This is the location called ‘Metele’; this is a place they (the insurgents) took over 40 barrel and these people want to use us, and within one week they killed over 200 soldiers and we are now 147. They want to waste us here. It is a lie, our blood is not here.”
They added, “This is a Third World vehicle, a tank manufactured in 1972; and Albarnawi broke all of it. They want to use us and we are not getting anything from them. We want to tell the government of our condition.
“Please, the Federal Government should intervene before the insurgents come and kill us. They mocked us and said we are Zombies, animals; we do not know our rights, any order given to us we will follow.
“We are millennium soldiers, most of us are graduates.
“Look at what they did to this T12 tank; it is obsolete. It was a 1983 Czechoslovakian tank procured during (Shehu) Shagari’s regime. Is this the money the Federal Government provided to procure weapons?”
A reliable source in the Nigerian Air Force told the Punch that the NAF had deployed more air assets in the North-East theatre to assist in the search for the corpses of soldiers and to locate scores of others who have been declared missing.
Another military source said some Nigerian soldiers were believed to have fled to towns and villages in Cameroon, Niger Republic and Chad to escape more fire from the ISWAP terrorists who are suspected to be regrouping for more attacks.
A military source added, “There is discontent within the troops in the North-East. Some of the soldiers have direct or indirect links with ISWAP. This is why the terrorists are able to release videos and casualty figures effortlessly. It is a coordinated attack and it is alarming.
“We are having air support in the areas. We rely on them to bomb more terrorists’ gathering, help to search and rescue troops and other allied operations.
“The Air Force is presently carrying out Operation Green Sweep, which is an air interdiction operation. This alone means that more fighter and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in the theatre of operations to identify Boko Haram logistics’ base and take them out.
“But it is not only about interdiction, there will be searches and surveillance to identify possible hostages for rescue.”
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu, when contacted by the newspaper, on effort being made by the military on the Metele attack, said, “Go and check our post on Facebook. You will find everything there.”
He reportedly declined to respond to further enquiries.