On March 2, air strikes by the Nigerian Air Force on suspected Boko Haram bases in Adamawa state, one of the three North-east states affected by the sect’s campaign of terror, went terribly wrong. Instead of the insurgents, 20 civilians were killed and 25 more wounded in the raid on Daglun village, close to Askira Uba on the Nigeria-Cameroun border.
Reports quoting residents said most of the dead and injured were aged, the youths having fled the area after earlier weekend attacks by the insurgents left dozens dead. A community leader who refused to be named said, “We counted 20 dead bodies while those injured were rushed to hospital. The people that remained in the village are mostly women and aged people because the younger ones have since fled for fear of being attacked by Boko Haram insurgents…”
Hospital sources in Mubi, itself in the centre of the violence, confirmed dead bodies and the wounded had been brought there. ‘’I cannot officially give you details of the casualty or those that were injured because I am not permitted to talk to the press; I can only tell you that many lives were lost and those with injuries were rushed to hospital for treatment”, a senior hospital official was quoted as saying.
The air strikes followed relentless attacks by Boko Haram gunmen in all three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, that left over 300 dead last February alone. They first attacked Konduga , the second time in a year, Izge and Shuwa, all in Borno state. Kunun Yadi in Yobe followed and then Galga in Gombi local government area of Adamawa. The air raids were clearly the military’s response to the bloodied nose the sect had given them. However, as usual, they would not say that was the case. Even the air strikes have not been acknowledged officially.
Spokesman of 23rd Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army (NA) based in Yola, the Adamawa capital, Captain Jafaru Nuhu, said he was not aware of the air strikes. However, a security official who did not want his name in print offered some insight. He said “terrorists” were killed in previous air strikes and the latest took place in remote Sambisa forest where insurgents camped. It is the same forest where the JTF had claimed it shot and probably killed the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, last year.
It is clear that after the massive Boko Haram successes in the last one month and an admission by the governor of Borno state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, that the sect’s fighters were “better equipped and motivated” than government troops, frustration and desperation are setting in among the security forces. This shouldn’t happen because if it does the civilian cost will be inestimable as we have seen at Dalgun. The setbacks of the past month, as painful as they are, should call for a rethink of the military strategy used so far in the anti-insurgency campaign. What is needed to effectively counter the insurgency is high quality intelligence, not a desperation to pull the trigger.
Government soldiers have been known to inflict high collateral damage in the campaign even when they seem to be coolheaded. This will no doubt be higher now if they are forced to justify the huge war chest they have at their disposal.