The Nigerian military has confirmed that a brigadier-general was killed on Saturday in an attack by extremists affiliated with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the Askira/Uba Local Government Area in Borno State.
Three soldiers also died in the attack.
Army spokesman Brigadier-General Onima Nwachukwu said in a statement that troops from the Joint Task Force, North East Operation Hadin Kai encountered ISWAP fighters in the local government area of Askira/Uba in Borno State, where a fierce gun battle took place.
The four were ambushed by ISWAP fighters.
The soldiers had been called in as reinforcements in the town of Askira/Uba because of an attack on Wednesday, November 10, in Kilangarchi, a small village in the Askira/Uba Local Government Area during which a hospital, schools and houses were burnt and many residents fled into the bush, fearing for their lives.
Nwachukwu said in the statement: “A gallant senior officer, Brigadier-General Dzarma Zirkusu, and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in a very rare display of gallantry as they provided reinforcement in a counteroffensive against the terrorists, and successfully defended the location. The family of the senior officer and soldiers have been contacted.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Luitenant-General Faruk Yahaya, deeply commiserates with the families and relations of the fallen heroes. He has also directed that the troops continue in the ferocious counteroffensive and hot pursuit to eliminate the remnants of the fleeing terrorists.”
Military sources and residents told Reuters that the ISWAP fighters attacked Askira/Uba on Saturday, November 13, with at least 12 gun trucks, burning houses, shops and a school and forcing some residents to flee.
Askira-Uba is about 150km south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and lies along the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, the operational base of both the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, and ISWAP.
In a separate attack on Friday, November 12, three soldiers were killed by attackers, who fired at the convoy using heavy weapons during the ambush in the village of Tamsu Kawu, along the 120km highway between Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State, said military sources.
In their counteroffensive, the soldiers, supported by fighter planes, “neutralised several” extremists and destroyed many of their vehicles, they said.
These attacks come as the army claims a series of successes against the extremists, including raids on their camps. But on September 17, at least 16 Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ISWAP ambush along the highway between Maiduguri and the garrison town of Monguno in the Lake Chad region. A week later, eight soldiers were killed in an attack by insurgents near the town of Dikwa, in the same region.
Three million civilians have been displaced and more than 30,000 killed in the 12 years of terror attacks in Nigeria, according to a report by the UN Office for Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Recent attacks have shown that ISWAP appears to be targeting mainly soldiers and military bases, while the JAS has continued to attack more civilians.