Two Nigerian soldiers were killed and six others injured when Boko Haram militants attacked a military post near the Cameroon border, security sources told AFP Monday, days before rescheduled presidental elections.
Fighters believed to be from the Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau launched the attack on the evening of Sunday, February 17, around 15 km (nearly 10 miles) from the town of Banki.
“We lost two soldiers to Boko Haram terrorists who attacked Alpha Company location…” a military officer in Banki said on condition of anonymity.
“Six soldiers were also injured in the attack,” he said. The account was backed by a civilian militia member in the town.
The injured troops were evacuated to a hospital in Mora, across the border in Cameroon.
Banki is 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Borno state capital Maiduguri, and houses some 45,000 people displaced by the conflict in a sprawling camp.
Boko Haram has launched several attacks in and around Banki, targeting troops and displaced people.
Last month two soldiers were killed and seven civilians injured in an ambush on a convoy of traders under military escort in Chachile village.
Troops fought off an attack by fighters believed to be from Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram faction on January 24 in Pulka, around 40 km west of Banki.
Six days later, Nigerian troops “neutralized” five Boko Haram insurgents and captured a suspected militant in the Gwoza area. Gwoza is around 18 km
Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 but has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response. Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
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 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.
Both factions of Boko Haram have intensified attacks in the region over several months, but the upsurge in ISWA attacks has been much more serious. Amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders, the group has launched dozens of assaults on military targets in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria.
On Saturday, four soldiers and five jihadist fighters were killed when ISWA fighters attacked a base in Buni Yadi, in Yobe state, the military said.
Five civilians were killed and 11 injured in the crossfire, AFP reported.
Nigeria’s electoral commission postponed Saturday’s presidential and legislative vote for a week.
The delay has been condemned by both President Muhammadu Buhari, who is standing for a second term, and his main opponent, former vice president Atiku Abubakar.
In the hard-fought presidential campaign, Atiku has seized on Buhari’s failure to defeat the group while the president has claimed the insurgency is weakening.
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.
With reporting from AFP