Charles Nwoke, Maiduguri, Nigeria
January 16, 2021
Jihad fighters working in conjunction with the Islamic State terrorist group have captured a military base in Borno state after overnight clashes with Nigeria military troops, sources revealed to AFP on Saturday.
Machine-gun wielding fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) ambushed the base in the town of Marte in the Lake Chad axis overnight Friday into Saturday, two sources said.
One of the sources said, “The priority now is to reclaim the base from the terrorists and an operation is underway.”
“We took a hit from ISWAP terrorists. They raided the base in Marte after a fierce battle.”
Another source said the army “incurred losses” but it was not yet clear how many people had died or the level of damages inflicted by the terrorist group.
ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, maintains camps on islands in Lake Chad — where Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad meet — and the area is known to be the group’s stronghold.
Last week, the terrorists attacked the Marte base but were rebutted, prompting them to mobilize more fighters for the overnight attack, the sources said.
According to the source, the invasion was seen as a “fightback” after recent losses — troops recently crushed ISWAP’s second biggest camp in the Talala community.
In November last year, officials began the phased return of residents to Marte six years after they were pushed out by the terrorist group.
The town, 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the regional capital Maiduguri, was once considered the breadbasket of the Lake Chad region.
At least 36,000 people have been killed in the jihadist conflict since 2009 and violence has spread into neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition.