Several soldiers and few officers reportedly ‘went missing’ on Friday after insurgents overwhelmed 153 Infantry Battalion and the 22 Armored Brigade, Marte, Borno State, in a surprise attack.
Both army formations were in one base when the insurgents launched an assault on them. Troops were said to have withdrawn from their positions when they were overpowered.
“Troops tried very hard and almost suppressed the offensive, but the insurgents sent reinforcements. Troops could not withstand the superior firepower of the insurgents and had to abandon their positions,” a military source confirmed yesterday.
Most of the soldiers and officers sought refuge in Dikwa town, which has an army base while many others have not been accounted for, the source added.
The insurgents were said to have looted valuables, including large-calibre guns before setting the army installations ablaze.
The brigade commander and the commanding officer of the battalion were among those who retreated to Dikwa, Where the General Officer Commanding 7 Division was supposed to meet with them on Saturday, the source added.
Another security source told one of our correspondents that military mobilised all its arsenal including air support as well as troops from Dikwa and Monguno to ensure that the strategic town remains under the control of the Nigerian Army after about 20 hours onslaught with the insurgents.
“Our troops are currently in Marte town as we speak. We are in control of it”, he said.
Air support was said to have been sent to the ground troops, apparently as a result of the significant level of threat posed to civilian returnees as confirmed by a statement from an officer in the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) on Saturday at 3:34 pm.
Brigadier-General Bernard Onyeuko, acting Director, Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, said in the statement that troops of Operation Tura Takaibango, in conjunction with the Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole “have effectively destroyed 7 Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists’ gun trucks and decimated several unconfirmed numbers of the terrorists when they attempted to attack their location at the outskirts of Marte.
“The gallant troops, based on reliable information about the attack, had positioned themselves in an ambush site where they tactically withdrew to and awaited the arrival of the terrorists before they opened fire, which led to the fierce battle that resulted in the successes recorded as indicated above.
The troops are still engaged in the pursuit of the fleeing terrorists for further exploitation. Further details of interest to members of the public will be communicated later,” the statement read.
A similar attack had taken place on the battalion on June 1, 2020, which later relocated to Dikwa and returned to Marte after the brigade was sent there. During last year’s assault, 18 soldiers who went missing are yet to be accounted for while the decomposed corpses of three soldiers were later recovered.