Boko Haram has killed three soldiers in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state near Lake Chad, military and civilian sources said.
Fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province driving in several trucks attacked the base in Cross-Kauwa village on Tuesday and engaged troops in an hours-long gunfight, the sources told AFP late on Wednesday, November 28.
“We lost three soldiers in the fight,” said a military officer who asked not to be named.
“The soldiers fought the terrorists but were overpowered and had to withdraw from the base,” he added.
A Cross-Kauwa resident said the militants stormed the village in trucks fitted with anti-aircraft guns around 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).
“The insurgents fought the soldiers for three hours and forced them to abandon the base,” said the resident who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Bukar, for fear of reprisals.
Buba said troops withdrew to the garrison town of Monguno, 18 km (11 miles) away while others stopped at another base in nearby Kekeno which Boko Haram has made several failed attempts to overrun in recent weeks.
The news of the attack was slow to emerge due to a lack of communications in the region following destruction of telecom facilities by the jihadists.
The insurgent group has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching a number of major assaults in Nigeria’s remote northeast region, amid signs of a takeover by more radical leaders.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016 over ideological differences, but a recent video posted by Abubakar Shekau hints at a possible reconciliation with the faction led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and known as Islamic State West Africa Province.
Shekau’s faction is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians, while the Barnawi faction largely focuses on attacking military and government targets.
Shekau has pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central gave its formal backing only to ISWAP.
The upsurge in attacks has been seen as a sign of a hardline takeover in the ISWAP faction by more radical lieutenants and have stretched the army at a time when troops are complaining of fatigue.
Since July, AFP has tracked 17 attacks on military bases, most of which were claimed by ISWAP.
In the most audacious attack on November 18, ISWAP fighters killed at least 43 soldiers when they overran a base in Metele village near the border with Niger, although soldiers who survived the raid said more than 100 of their colleagues were killed.
Both Metele and Gajiram have been attacked in the past six months, underlining the persistent threat that Boko Haram poses to the ravaged region.
On November 20, Islamic State published images it said were from the recent attacks, including pictures of the captured vehicles.
On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari visitied troops in Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency and urged the military to show more commitment in fighting the jihadists.
The Nigerian leader was due in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, on Thursday for talks with his regional counterparts in a fighting force against the jihadists.
Buhari who came to power in 2015 on the promise to end the violence has come under pressure following the recent surge in Boko Haram attacks as he seeks re-election in February polls.
With reporting from AFP