The 72 Special Forces Battalion, Makurdi, Benue State yesterday counted its losses in the on-going battle against insurgents and the Tiv/Fulani and Agatu crisis in Benue State.
Commanding Officer Col. Timothy Lagbaja said the Battalion lost 28 soldiers to the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast and in Benue State in three years.
Col. Lagbaja’s testimony came amidst report that the insurgents had again seized the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway and invaded communities to attack villagers.
Yesterday’s attacks by members of the deadly Boko Haram sect was barely 48 hours after they raided Mainok in Borno State, where they killed over 30 persons and torched most part of the village.
The commanding Officer told reporters in Makurdi that his command lost four officers and eight soldiers to the Tiv/Fulani and Agatu crises in Benue between 2012 and 2015.
He said the remaining 16 were lost to insurgency in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, adding that many others, who were injured, were either flown abroad or treated in the country.
Col. Lagbaja said the battalion alone had deployed about 500 soldiers to serve in the special security outfit code-named “Operation Zenda” to maintain internal security in the state.
He, however, said the effort was paying off as weapons that have hitherto in the hands of wrong people had been recovered.
“High criminality in the state has been reduced to few isolated cases of killings,” he said.
Boko Haram terrorists yesterday returned to attack villagers and halted commuting on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway for the fourth ?time in a week.
In a bid to save Eid-el-Fitri holiday travellers from driving into an ambush by the insurgents, security operatives battled to stop them.
Villagers had earlier reported 15 persons killed on Tuesday night as militants continued their raids on the only safe route linking other parts of the country with Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency.
Warsala, a village at the boundary between Borno and Yobe states, was the latest community on the troubled highway to be hit by the extremists.
The agrarian community is not more than five kilometres from Ngamdu, another village on the highway that buried 10 persons killed by Boko Haram terrorists on Friday night.
Reports said that the Tuesday night attack on Warsala came barely 24 hours after the terrorists attacked Mainok, a village located on the same highway and about 40 kilometres away from Warsala.
A traveller on the route, Hamza Baba, narrated how he drove through a village practically deserted, claiming he sighted some smoking trucks believed to have been set ablaze by the insurgents.
Baba, a government official travelling to his country home for the Eid-el-Fitri celebration, said: “The trucks were attacked and burnt by Boko Haram terrorists who shot their drivers.
“A villager, who had a luggage on his head and standing by the road side to board a vehicle to Damaturu, informed me that the attack took place at about 8pm when the gunmen arrived in Warsala, shooting sporadically. He said eight persons were found dead this morning and that he had to flee because the gunmen said they would still be back.
“Another trailer conveying commodities to Maiduguri was attacked, and the driver killed early this morning (yesterday) in Ngamdu village, about two kilometres away from Warsala, which is a village under Yobe State.
“This has forced the villagers to start fleeing their homes en masse this morning (yesterday). I saw more than 3000 of them leaving; many were trekking, some were conveyed in trucks.
“The Damaturu-Maiduguri highway is becoming a dead zone; this is the fourth attack this week from Monday. I wonder why intensive patrol measures are not being launched to stop this.”
On Monday, reports from Mainok in Kaga Local Government Area of Borno, indicated that at least 30 persons were killed, and many others injured by rampaging terrorists.
Mainok is about 65 kilometres from Maiduguri.
The attack lasted about five hours as the gunmen took their time to ensure that no single edifice in the village was left untouched.
Sources said more than a hundred Boko Haram terrorists had, at about 5:30pm, stormed Mainok town and opened fire on civilians, killing at least 40. More than 30 vehicles that were trapped near the village were also burnt as well as hundreds of homes.
Abubakar Danmalam, an operative of the Civilian-JTF, who visited Mainok on Tuesday, said “about 30 persons, and that include those travellers that were trapped on the way while travelling on Maiduguri-Damaturu road,” were murdered.
“We have buried some of the people that can be buried but some of them were burnt beyond recognition; some of our foodstuffs were carted away,” he said.