30 Nigerian soldiers were reportedly killed in combat with Boko Haram jihadists who overran a military base in the northeast near the border with Niger, two military sources told AFP on Saturday.
It was gathered that a fierce battle ensued, after scores of jihadists in trucks stormed the base at Zari village in northern Borno state late Thursday and briefly seized it.
“They came in large numbers in trucks and carrying heavy weapons and engaged soldiers in a battle that lasted for an hour,” a military officer said.
“We lost at least 30 men,” the officer said, adding that the attack took place at around 4:00 pm.
“They overwhelmed the troops who were forced to temporarily withdraw before reinforcements arrived,” said the officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak.
AFP reported that Boko Haram intensified attacks on military targets in recent months. The attacks appear to undermine repeated claims by the military that Boko Haram had been defeated. The militants took weapons and military equipment before they were pushed out of the base by troops with aerial support, said a second military source who gave a similar death toll. The militants were pursued and bombarded by a fighter jet, said the military sources.
“The terrorists also suffered heavy casualty from the bombardment”, one of the Nigerian soldiers said.
The Nigerian military confirmed troops fought Boko Haram “insurgents…on rampage to loot the community and extort money from villagers”, in a statement on Friday.
“Troops…have successfully routed Boko Haram insurgents in an encounter that ensued yesterday evening at Zari village,” the military said in the statement.
It did not speak of military casualties and the raid on the base but maintained “several Boko Haram fighters and weapons” were destroyed in the fight. However sources alleged that the jihadists attacked the base from the nearby Garunda village, where 17 troops were killed and 14 injured in an attack on another military base last month, the sources said.