PLANS by the Islamic State of West Africa Province (Iswap) to consolidate its presence across northeast Nigeria has suffered a major setback after one of its major commanders was killed by government forces during a failed attempt to capture a town in Borno State.
Last week, Iswap succeeded in killing Boko Haram leader Sheikh Abubakar Shekau after its fighters surrounded his camp in Sambisa Forest, forcing him to blow himself up to avoid being captured. Clearly the dominant force in the region now, Iswap begun consolidating its position by wiping out the remainder of Boko Haram’s cells in Sambisa Forest.
Iswap broke away from Boko Haram and has operated as a rival group, with both laying claims to supremacy until the recent turn of events. In February this year, Iswap took control of the historic city of Dikwa in Borno State after successfully expelling security forces from there and has been gradually building up its support base.
Yesterday, Iswap’s consolidation programme suffered a major setback after Nigerian Army troops functioning under Operation Hadin Kai and the air component, inflicted heavy casualty on the sect. Iswap terrorists had invaded Damboa town in Borno in trucks, armoured personnel carriers and motorcycles, seeking to capture the town.
However, the Nigerian military thwarted the attempt, killing Iswap commander Oumar Tela, killing him in a Nigerian Air Force airstrike. Brigadier Mohammed Yerima, the director of army public relations, said the terrorists who attacked Damboa were in possession of explosives.
He added that their locally fabricated armoured-plated vehicle, gun trucks, among others were destroyed, leading to the suicide bombers abandoning their mission at the heat of the battle. Several weapons and ammunition, including a 14.5mm HMG, several 12.7mm HMG, AK-46 rifles, a RPG launcher, were recovered after the battle.
Brigadier Yerima added: “The troops neutralised over 50 Iswap terrorists forcing the survivors to run in disarray under heavy gun fire from the resilient troops and Nigerian Air Force attack platforms.” Chief of army staff Major General Faruk Yahaya has hailed his men and their counterparts in the Nigeria Air Force for the operation.