Two Nigerian soldiers were killed on Saturday, December 15, in a roadside bomb explosion in the restive northeast near the border with Cameroon, military sources told AFP.
A military convoy on patrol between the towns of Gamboru and Logomani in the Lake Chad area in Borno state, was struck by a mine planted by Boko Haram, killing at least one soldier and injuring another, according to two military sources who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
“Around 8:15 this morning [0715 GMT] our men on patrol between Logomani and Gamboru encountered an IED [improvised explosive device] buried along the road which killed one soldier and injured another,” the first officer said.
“A platoon from Forward Operation Base in Logomani hit a mine along the Gamboru road,” said the second officer.
“Two soldiers died and one was injured,” he said.
According to AFP, a group loyal to long-time Boko Haram faction leader Abubakar Shekau is known to operate in the area.
But Islamic State reported an attack apparently carried out by its West Africa Province affiliate targeting the Nigerian army near Gamboru. One soldier was killed and others injured, ISIS claimed.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016 over ideological differences. 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 has pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central gave its formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa Province.
On December 1, ISIS claimed ISWAP killed eight Nigerian soldiers and wounded 17 others in an attack near Gamboru. The Nigerian Army said that it captured weapons and stores during “offensive patrols” in the area, but did not mention army casualties.
Two weeks earlier, Shekau’s faction was blamed for the abduction of around 50 people near Bulakesa village, 25 km (15 miles) from Gamboru on November 17. The hostages were mostly from a camp for people displaced by violence.
In October two Nigerian soldiers were killed and a dozen others wounded in two separate mine explosions targeting military patrols in the northeast.
ISWAP has lately intensified its armed campaign, launching a number of major assaults on military targets in Borno and neighbouring Yobe state amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders.
There have been more than 20 attacks on military bases since July, with at least nine so far this month. Most of the attacks have been blamed on ISWAP, or claimed as ISWAP attacks by ISIS.
ISWAP was blamed for a December 14 attack on a military base in Gudumbali.
On December 8, Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in Gulumba killing at least two soldiers. The attack involved a suicide bomber, a hallmark of the Shekau faction.
On December 7, three civilians were killed in fighting between troops and ISWAP in Jakana.
Two military bases were attacked in the Rann and Bama areas of Borno on December 6 and 7.
On December 4, ISWAP fighters launched an assault on a military base in Gudumbali, sparking a fierce firefight in which two soldiers were injured.
On December 3, ISWAP fighters attacked a military base in Mallam Fatori near the borders with Niger and Chad. One soldier was killed and several others were injured in the attack.
On December 1, an ISWAP attack in the Yobe state village of Buni Gari left eight soldiers dead, the Nigerian army said, while ISIS claimed ISWAP fighters killed 17 soldiers.
The military on November 30 lashed out at the media, saying some media outlets were “creating erroneous impression of the Nigerian Army through inaccurate and false publication of casualty figures.”
The military has even threatened legal action against organisations for publishing unofficial figures.
On December 14, the military briefly banned the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF from operatiing in northeastern Nigeria. The military claimed UNICEF was training spies to sabotage counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts. The suspension was lifted several hours later.
Borno and Yobe states, along with nearby Adamawa state, have born the brunt of nine years of jihadist violence that has claimed 27,000 lives and forced 1.8 million people to flee their homes.
A recent surge in Boko Haram attacks has increased pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat the Islamists and has repeatedly said they are virtually defeated. His administration wants to show it is winning the fight against Boko Haram ahead of a presidential election in February at which he will seek a second term in office.
With reporting from AFP