An estimated 700 soldiers are missing with more than 2,000 trapped following a Boko Haram attack on Thursday that culminated in the loss of Baga, a town in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, by the Nigerian Army.
A faction of the insurgents loyal to Abu Musab al-Barnawi attacked Baga, lying northeast of Kukawa, and succeeded in dislodging the soldiers and hoisting their flags.
According to an aid worker who spoke with SaharaReporters, “a large number of soldiers are still missing and many others are trapped.”
“Boko haram has taken over Baga town,” said the source. “More than 2,000 troops are there trapped, and 700 are missing. [Air Force] jets cannot do anything now because the soldiers are trapped in their midst”.
SaharaReporters could not independently verify the figures being mentioned, but a security source said it was “highly possible”, considering Baga is the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) — a formation comprising units, mostly military, from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, and boasting between 7,500 and 10,000 personnel.
A security source confirmed the attack and the disappearance of “a high number of soldiers”.
“So many soldiers, likely in their hundreds, are missing,” he said. “Even the Baga Brigade Commander is back in Maiduguri, which means he must have escaped when he saw that his team was overwhelmed.”
The source also confirmed that the insurgents set the MNJTF headquarters ablaze, and made away with military equipment.
The Army, though, continues to deny that the town has been overrun by insurgents.
In a statement released on Friday, Sani Usman, Director of Army Public Relations, said the sidurgents were the ones fleeing.
“Please recall that yesterday, Wednesday 26th December 2018 suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked the headquarters of 7 Brigade Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Baga, Borno State, at about 7.00pm,” he said in a statement.
“The troops along with their Nigerian Navy counterparts put up a very determined fight to repel the attack throughout the night, while Sector 3 Operation LAFIYA DOLE sent in reinforcement who are in hot pursuit of the terrorists. Similarly, a Search and Rescue team has been constituted.
“The Nigerian Air Force component has also been mobilised and are engaging the fleeing terrorists. Unfortunately, a naval personnel was killed in action. So far, no further details of casualties yet as efforts are ongoing to clear the terrorists hiding in Baga and environs.”