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Army set for air strikes against Boko Haram

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The Defence Headquarters has confirmed the plans by the Nigerian Armed Forces to carry out air strikes in its offensive operations against the Boko Haram insurgents.

This disclosure came 24 hours after the military vowed to go ahead to assert Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by crushing the terrorists.

Speaking to our correspondent in Abuja, yesterday, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, said the military was ready to do anything to achieve the mission as directed by the Commander-In-Chief (C-In-C) of the armed forces, President Goodluck Jonathan in the emergency rule.

“Whatever it will take to achieve the mission will be done, air strike inclusive. We will carryout air strike but we cannot say when it will commence. “Everything needed for the mission has been mobilised, men material and all resources have been mobilised.

We will do anything to achieve the mission,” Olukolade told Daily Sun. The DHQ was silent on the commencement time, arsenals and tactics for the operation, but reiterated that there was no more hiding place for terrorists in Nigeria.

The operation follows President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to impose a state of emergency in all three states as he admitted that Boko Haram had taken over territory in the North-East and declared war against the government. The Islamists, who had said they were fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim North, had become emboldened and better armed in recent months.

The military spokesman said operations had begun in all the three states, but declined to provide specifics. The operation is the largest against Boko Haram since 2009, when soldiers flooded Borno’s capital Maiduguri, killing more than 800 people and forcing the insurgents underground for a year.

A military source, who requested anonymity told AFP that Nigerian forces raided some terrorist camps in the Sambisa Game Reserve in northern Borno early on Wednesday. Zangina Kyarimi, who lived in the remote town of Marti in northern Borno towards the border with Chad, said large military teams arrived late Wednesday.

“I saw dozens of military vans and trucks accompanied by tanks,” he said on phone from the town, which is considered a Boko Haram stronghold.

“We are afraid of what might happen in the coming days. We are thinking of leaving,” he said. In Adamawa, a dusk-to-dawn curfew had been imposed, with all residents forced to stay indoor after sundown, the area’s military spokesman, Lieutenant Ja-afar Mohammed Nuhu told AFP. In Yobe State in the town of Gashua, scene of a deadly Boko Haram attack on April 26, a convoy of military personnel rolled through, heading North to the Niger border, a resident, Musa Saminu said. “Some of them went to the banks and asked them to close down as a precaution,” he told AFP.

While the military had vowed that the operation would rid the nation’s border territories of terrorist bases, there were doubts as to whether the security forces had the capacity to end the insurgency. “The military is already overstretched,” former US ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell said on Wednesday in an article for the Council on Foreign Relations. The northeastern borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger were porous, with criminal groups and weapons moving freely between countries.

Analysts warned that despite the military buildup, Boko Haram could scatter and find new safe havens. Many had urged Nigeria to address the social causes fuelling the insurgency, including acute poverty and frustration over excessive government corruption.

Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer, but most of its estimated 160 million people still live on less than two dollars a day. Nigeria’s security forces had been accused of massive rights abuses in campaigns against Boko Haram, which might have amounted to crimes against humanity, according to Human Rights Watch. The US State Department on Wednesday warned that any ‘heavy-handed’ tactics or disregard for human rights during the emergency operations could damage bilateral relations. Abubakar Shekau, believed to be the head of Boko Haram, had rejected any form of negotiation with Nigeria’s government.

The Boko Haram conflict was estimated to have cost 3, 600 lives since 2010, including killings by the security forces.


First published by Dailysun

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