Not less than 33 soldiers including an officer were killed on Sunday by Boko Haram fighters and an air force fighter jet in Mainok, Borno State.
Our correspondent learnt from credible sources hinted that a fighter jet of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) mistakenly targeted ground forces heading to Mainok town, 55 kilometres to Maiduguri to repel invading terrorists loyal to the Islamic State of West Africa Providence (ISWAP).
Sources said while many Boko Haram fighters who disguised as friendly Nigerian soldiers penetrated the military Super Camp in Mainok and inflicted serious damage on troops and equipment, the fighter jet bombed a gun truck conveying some soldiers on a rescue mission. A video of the incident is already trending online.
The attack on Mainok has been described as “the most devastating” in recent weeks considering the damage inflicted.
Meanwhile , the air force said on Monday that it was investigating the story alleging its men killed 20 Nigerian Army personnel by accident in an airstrike at Mainok.
In a statement made available to newsmen by the Director, Army Public Relations, Mohammed Yerima, said an officer and six soldiers lost their lives while many Boko Haram fighters were killed during the raid by the militants.
‘The terrorists 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.
“During the firefight which lasted several hours, the gallant troops tactically lured a number of the terrorists into a killing zone within their camp where the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole scrambled Alpha jets and helicopter gunboats which took turns in decimating the already trapped terrorists.
“In the aftermath of the encounter, scores of Boko Haram terrorists were neutralised with their body parts littering the area and a number of their gun trucks destroyed.
“Regrettably, one gallant officer and six soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice while 5 other soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries,” he said.
Speaking on how the carnage was carried out, a credible sources said the Boko Haram fighters invaded Mainok in a convoy of four Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPs), a scorpion Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and several gun trucks. They reportedly disguised as friendly forces before dislodging troops of 156 Battalion and setting the camp ablaze.
They also moved into the community still dressed in Nigerian military desert camouflage and looted foodstuff and other logistics from shops.
One of our sources said: “The ISWAP fighters divided themselves into three groups. The well-armed fighters attacked the base. They raided and overrun the military base and killed no fewer than 30 soldiers including the Commanding Officer (CO).
“Another group was set for an ambush in case of reinforcement of troops from Damaturu road. This group successfully ambushed some soldiers and killed 3 of them while nine others were injured.
“The last group was stationed along Jakana – Mainok road that leads to Maiduguri. They, too, ambushed some soldiers and seized one MRAP vehicle and killed 3 soldiers.
Another source said the terrorists that stormed the super camp took all the soldiers in the restricted area by surprise because they were well-kitted in military paraphernalia.
“The uniforms the terrorists wore, the vehicles they drove and everything are just the same with those being used by our troops. You will not be wrong if you say they stole them from our troops elsewhere and I think this is why they entered the super camp with ease.
“Once at the premises, they opened fire from all directions and therefore subdued our troops. They stole military hardware and set others on fire.
“The fighter jet came after the boys have left and it only succeeded in dropping it (bomb) on some soldiers. The terrorists left a flyer behind saying Benishek is their next target,” the source said. He added that the Boko Haram fighters also seized some of the military fighting logistics being conveyed to Maiduguri from Lagos. This claim could not be independently verified by our reporters.
A security expert who does not want his name mentioned asked some rhetorical questions: “What happened to the hundreds of troops on the highways from Jimtilo, Auno, Jakana and Mainok up till Benishek? How can they allow a super camp to be sacked? What is the cock fly distance between the air force base in Maiduguri and Mainok? It was not dark; the attack was launched in daylight. How come we still have friendly causality from the air force? If a super camp could be overrun so easily, then what is the need for it?
Responding, a Public Affairs Analyst, Abubakar Mohammed Kareto, lamented that the attack on Geidam in Yobe State and Mainok in Borno typified the level of setbacks suffered by the military and civilian population in recent times.
“It is a deadly battle of supremacy with the nation’s military the impact of which will remain huge and unbearable to the people.
“Mainok is a town along Maiduguri-Damaturu Road, the road linking Maiduguri to Kano. Anytime there is an attack on the road, hopes for peace in Maiduguri further dampens.
“The fear is that once the Maiduguri road falls into the hands of the terrorists, the insurgents would have effectively won the war because the Borno State capital would have been practically cut off from all access by land. There is need more action from all and sundry to ensure that insurgents are denied of freedom movements,” Kareto said.
Security sources told one of our correspondents that the Boko Haram terrorists had also attacked Gwoza and Gamboru Ngala all in Borno State on Monday night.
“They attacked Gwoza at about the time the people were about breaking their fast but Nigerian troops repelled them. The terrorists also suffered casualty at a village near Gamboru because three of them were killed and three gun trucks recovered,” the source said.