Contrary to reports and account of soldiers who survived the Metele Boko Haram attack, the Nigerian Army has said it lost only 23 personnel to the attack on its 157 Battalion in Metele in northern Borno on November 18.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, said this in a statement on Wednesday, two weeks after the attack, while speaking about the casualties’ figure, adding that 31 personnel were also “wounded in action and have been evacuated to several medical hospitals.
Gen. Buratai, in the release signed by Brig Gen Sani Usman, stated that 12 soldiers were also killed at Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Gajiram when the troops came under attacks of the Boko Haram terrorists.
The statement partly read, “Troops deployed in the North-East of Nigeria under Operation Lafiya Dole have come under series of attacks by large numbers of Boko Haram terrorists. Specifically, the Nigerian Army troops deployed at Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Gajiram came under attack at different times within a two-week period from November 2 to 17.
“Each of these incidents was successfully repelled and several members of the terrorists were killed. However, a total of 16 personnel were killed in the course of these attacks while 12 soldiers were wounded in action and are receiving treatment at our military medical facilities.
“As you are all aware, Nigeria is contributing troops to the Multi-National Joint Task Force which has its headquarters in N’djamena, in the Republic of Chad. One of the Nigerian battalions, 157 Task Force Battalion, deployed under the auspices of the MNJTF was attacked at their Base on the outskirts of a town called Metele on November 18.
“During the attack, the troops were forced to withdraw and several casualties were recorded. As of this date, 23 personnel were killed in action and 31 personnel were wounded in action and have been evacuated to several medical hospitals within Borno State. The Nigerian Army commiserates with the MNJTF at this difficult time and wishes to state that all necessary support will be rendered to the MNJTF to reverse this resurgence of the Boko Haram terrorists.
“In the last two to three months, we have noticed daring moves by the terrorists, increased use of drones against our defensive positions and infusion of foreign fighters in their ranks. These potent threats require us to continually review our operations.”
The Nigerian Army however did not release the names of those killed or injured as demanded by civil societies.
Meanwhile, top military sources, including rescue team members, had informed Premium Times that at least 118 soldiers were killed.
This does not include several military rescuers who were killed in another Boko Haram ambush on November 19. The rescue team had arrived in Metele, a Borno State and home to the 157 Task Force Battalion to evacuate the bodies of the slain soldiers.
London-based newswire Reuters had also placed casualty figures at about 100 as of November 22, four days after the attack.
A soldier who was attached to the 157 Task Force Battalion but escaped the attack also told Premium Times that over 70 of his colleagues were killed.
Besides, Premium Times authoritatively reported that top military sources, overseeing the aftermath of the incident, said that 118 bodies have been counted as atNovember 24, six days after the attack. The sources also said 153 troops were missing in action.
The 118 soldiers reportedly killed in the November 18 attack included Ibrahim Sakaba, a lieutenant colonel and commander of the battalion, his second-in-command, the battalion’s intelligence officer and two other officers.