While tensions over the invasion of the Republic of Niger by ECOWAS Force still rends the air, the Nigerian military, which is largely the spearhead of the intervention, has suffered some losses. The military announced that no less than 36 of its soldiers were killed in their line of duty facing armed gangs in the North-Central region of Niger State. These resolute efforts to quell the menace of these marauding gangs have underscored the grave challenges posed by rampant criminality in the region.
For the past two years, the North-West region of Nigeria has been under siege by heavily armed groups, causing widespread devastation. The brazen acts of kidnapping and wanton bloodshed have cast a shadow of fear over communities, rendering roads treacherous and farmlands perilous. In an unfortunate incident on August 14, 2023, an ambush laced with ruthless precision near Kundu Village met both officers and soldiers. The profound toll of this assault claimed the lives of three officers and 22 soldiers, while leaving seven soldiers wounded.
Evacuation helicopter allegedly shot down by insurgents.
Amidst the initial loss, an Air Force Mi-171 helicopter, which was sent to evacuate the fallen heroes, tragically met a grim fate near Chukuba Village in Shiroro. The effort to provide aid to the fallen soldiers resulted in additional lives lost. Though the cause of the crash remains uncertain, sources within the military suggest that the helicopter may have been targeted by gang members, unleashing a fatal barrage. Spokesperson for the Defense Headquarters, Major-General Edward Buba, said that the helicopter crashed with 14 of the earlier killed-in-action personnel, seven of the earlier wounded-in-action personnel, two pilots, and two crew members.
However, video evidence circulating on social media showed terrorists armed with AK47 rifles and submachine guns at the crash site of the aircraft. Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” could be heard from a number of the terrorists. The spokesperson of the group in the video spoke in Hausa language. Other social media users who could understand the language revealed that the individual was describing the gunfight between the helicopter and ground insurgents using onomatopoeia. Essentially, he claimed that the helicopter had not crashed but that they had brought it down through gunfight.
Governor Bago begs the Air Force not to relent on counter-insurgency.
Meanwhile, Niger State Governor, Umar Bago, on August 15, 2023, has appealed to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) not to be tired of fighting insurgents in the state following the incident where the surveillant jet belonging to the force was brought down by the criminals. He made the appeal at NAF Headquarters in Abuja when he paid a condolence visit to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar. He urged the air chief to send some detachments and fighter planes to Minna Airport for quick interference whenever enemies are advancing.
As he commiserated with the military high command for losing some land troops to the enemies, he promised NAF that the state government was ready to provide accommodation for the Air Force personnel in Minna close to the airport. He said that the deployment of both fighter jets and UAVs have been very apt and helpful to the ground troops and local vigilantes but that they need more. The governor also explained that the difficult terrains like mountains and hills in the state, gave the non-state actors impetus to continue perpetrating their evils.
BH and ISWAP continue to challenge the military resolve in the North.
Even as these painful events unfold, the battle against the menace rages on, and the resilience of Nigeria’s security forces is being tested on multiple fronts. A 13-year insurgency against Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) continues to challenge the resolve of the nation’s defenders in the North. However, a ray of hope was had as a separate military operation in Kaduna state yielded a small victory against kidnappers. Acting on a tipoff, troops successfully rescued ten hostages from the clutches of their captors in a village within the Igabi Local Government Area.
United Nations Security Council: Website