Nigerian troops killed four suspected Boko Haram militants as they cleared a “hideout” in Makinta Meleri in Borno state, the army said on Friday, January 25.
Nigerian Army troops “based on credible information today conducted a clearance operation on suspected Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) hideout along Makinta Meleri in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State,” Colonel Aso Isa said in a statement published in a Facebook post that included graphic images of dead bodies.
“During the operation, the gallant troops neutralised four terrorists” Ado said, adding that four AK-type rifles, three magazines, ammunition and three bicycles were recovered.
Makinta Meleri is around 25 km (16 miles) southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri.
It is unclear to which faction of Boko Haram the militants belonged, but the Shekau faction is known to be active in the general area.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One is led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, while the other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa province.
ISWA has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching dozens of assaults on military targets in Borno and Yobe states amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders. ISWA attacks have increasingly featured in ISIS propaganda.
On January 25, ISIS claimed in its al-Naba magazine that ISWA fighters carried out an attack on a military base in Kamuya. Sources told AFP six soldiers were killed and 14 injured.
On January 20, troops “successfully defeated Boko Haram terrorists” who attacked a military base in Buni Yadi in Yobe state, the army said. Military sources told AFP that four soldiers were killed in the attack which they blamed on ISWA.
Troops killed five militants in the Baga area of Borno state on January 19 after an attack using a suicide car bomb (SVBIED). Via its Amaq propaganda agency, ISIS claimed ISWA fighters carried out the Baga attack. Nigerian troops returned to Baga on January 9 after a wave of ISWA attacks against military bases in late December that forced more than 30,000 civilians to flee.
Also on January 19, two Boko Haram fighters were killed in operations near Kajeri Maye village in the Mafa district of Borno, the army said. It is unclear which faction the militants belonged to.
The attacks come as Nigeria gears up for crucial elections.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said in December 2015 that Boko Haram was “technically defeated” after a sustained counter-insurgency. But on January 9 he acknowledged setbacks in the fight-back, including “battle fatigue” among soldiers from a wave of guerrilla style hit-and-run tactics and suicide bombings.
Buhari was elected in 2015 on a promise to end the conflict and security has again become an election issue as he seeks a second term in the presidential election on February 16. National Assembly elections will be held the same day, while regional polls are set for March 2.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2009, and 1.8 million people are still homeless and in need of humanitarian assistance.