Hundreds of members of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, who are fleeing military attacks in the border communities of Borno State, are regrouping in the mountainous forests of Adamawa State, a top Defence source told The PUNCH on Monday.
The source said that militants, who were dislodged from Sambisa Game Reserve and other camps in Borno, had sought refuge in the Adamawa forests, especially in the Zumo area of Song Local Government Area.
He also said that the sect members had been sighted in the forests of Maiha and Fufore local government areas of the state.
“Most of the Boko Haram members who are running away from the military operations in Borno are moving into Adamawa State. They are regrouping in Zumo area of Song Local Government Area. Some are in Fufore and Maha local government areas. This particular area has a combination of mountains, rocks and bushes that extend to Cameroon,” he said.
Our correspondents learnt that the sect members mingled with civilians when they were escaping from Borno to Adamawa State.
Adamawa has a complex topography comprising mountains, rocks and thick forests that extend into the nation’s border with Cameroon.
It is a mountainous land crossed by the large river valleys – Benue, Gongola and Yedsarem. The valleys of Cameroon, Mandara and Adamawa mountains form part of the landscape.
The source, who spoke with The PUNCH, on condition that he would not be named, said that the focus of the Defence authorities that are coordinating the fight against the militants would change in the next few days from Northern Borno to Adamawa State.
He further stated that the influx of suspected insurgents into Adamawa explained the decision of the Defence Headquarters to deploy additional 1,000 troops in the state in preparation for a similar military operation in the area.
The source said, “This might be the reason behind the decision of the Defence Headquarters to deploy additional 1,000 soldiers in the state.
“The attention of the Defence authorities and the Special Forces deployed to flush out suspected Islamic militants in the North- Eastern part of the country may shift from Borno where some of the earliest battles have been fought to Adamawa State.”
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters on Monday said that 120 terrorists were arrested in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, during the burial of a commander of the insurgents.
The military spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, said the sect commander died during an encounter with the Special Task Forces.
“In Maiduguri, about 120 terrorists were arrested as they organised the burial of one of their commanders who died in an encounter with the Special Forces the previous day. The arrested insurgents are in custody of the Joint Task Force where they are being interrogated,” Olukolade said.
He said the Special Forces had secured the environs of New Marte, Hausari, Krenoa, Wulgo and ChikunNgulalo in Borno State after destroying all the terrorists’ camps in the areas.
He said, “The troops are already interacting with locals and citizens, assuring them of their safety and freedom from the activities of insurgents.
“Terrorists fleeing towards Chad and Niger Republic are being contained as they have had encounters with Multi-National Joint Task Force in various locations towards the border.
“Advancing troops also observed a few shallow graves believed to be those of hurriedly buried members of the terrorist group.”
Olukolade also said that Defence Headquarters had observed the use of photographs purportedly taken in the areas covered by the operations.
The defence spokesman said the photographs were questionable as they did not reflect any related reality of the social or geographical environment.
He added, “This also makes the story they claim to depict of Nigerians fleeing to Niger Republic and other countries doubtful. The media are advised to always strive to associate stories with accurate pictures in order to avoid misleading the public.”
Also on Monday, the Defence Headquarters assured civilians of cordial relationship in its ongoing war against terrorism.
Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, assured civilians of cordial relationship during a three-day seminar organised in conjunction with the United States.
The seminar was meant to compose a strategy for strengthening civil-military relations and counter-terror strategy.
On his part, the Director of Civil-Military Relations, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, said, “There were a lot of misconceptions on military operations. We are going to clear the misconceptions and assure people that the military is theirs and working to protect them.”
At the Monday ceremony, the Director General of National Orientation Agency, Mike Omeri, said that recent events in the country showed the need for increasing civil-military relations in combating threats to the country’s territorial integrity.
“As profound and skilful as our military intelligence is, it could be greatly impaired if the civilian populace do not cooperate with it,” he said.
Omeri also urged the directorate of civil-military relations to set up a centre for proactive management of information specific to Joint Task Force operations around the country.
Source : punch