The Defence Headquarters has confirmed that some Boko Haram terrorists had relocated to the North-West and North-Central where they operate as bandits, like reported by ripplesnigeria.com.
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, who disclosed this on Thursday said the terrorists were fleeing intense land and air offensives against their hideouts and camps in the North East.
He stated this as Defence Headquarters adding, that 104 bandits and 92 Boko Haram terrorists were eliminated during several encounters with troops in several military operations in the North East and North West in the last one week.
He added that its maritime component also de-activated 17 illegal refinery sites in the South-South, particularly at Agor-Illa, Warri South West LGA, while Operation Delta Safe through NNS Delta and NNS Pathfinder impounded 565,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO.
According to Enenche, the type of weaponry found with the bandits, such as anti-aircraft gun, PKT gun, capable of shooting down an aircraft, suggested that some of the terrorists in the North-East might have relocated to the North-West and North-Central.
He said, “In the past, the highest weapon found among bandits was the GPMG guns and AK 47 rifles because what they are known for is stealing of cows and rams. But now, they are in possession of AA and PKT guns which can be used to bring down an aircraft.
“It is no hidden fact that these are weapons used by Boko Haram terrorists, got from neighbouring West African countries.’’
There have been concerns over the withdrawal of military from checkpoints across the country. The fear being expressed by many is that the development is capable of opening the way for terrorists and bandits fleeing military offensives to freely relocate to other parts of the country.
But Enenche said the action of military was due to complaints of Nigerians, chiefly during the COVID-19 lockdown.
He, meanwhile, said that the action would be reviewed and reconsidered.
He said, “But other than the checkpoints, the military still conducts snap checks on the roads to ensure criminal elements don’t have freedom of movement. It is not that the military is completely withdrawn.’’
On update on military operations across the country, he said, “The troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have continued to exhibit sustained resilience in the fight against terrorism in the North East zone of the Country.
‘’This has been evident in their recent encounters with the BHT/ISWAP elements across the North East theatre of operation. During the period, troops’ encounters with the criminal elements resulted in the destruction of their structures and equipment, as well as the capture of arms and ammunition.
“Our gallant troops also rescued some hostages, with some criminal elements surrendering to the troops. Within the period, the ground troops of Operation Lafiya Dole had no fewer than 17 encounters with the BHT/ISWAP criminals in the North East theatre of operation.
“These encounters resulted in the killing of 75 BHT/ISWAP fighters, capture of large arms and ammunition, as well as vehicles and equipment. Also recorded were the capture of some criminal elements and spies as well as rescue of 35 BHT captives, while four of their fighters surrendered to our troops.
“Between June 2 and 3, 2020, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole conducted comprehensive precision strikes, to mark the launching of its subsidiary Operation Long Reach II on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State.”