Nigeria orders military chiefs to relocate to troubled northeast

Soldiers patrol in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

Nigeria has ordered its military chiefs to relocate to Maiduguri in the northeast following a deadly ambush on an oil exploration team in which more than 50 people were killed by Boko Haram earlier this week.

Tuesday's attack in the Magumeri area of Borno state on a ten-vehicle convoy of specialists from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was the Islamist militants' deadliest in months.

A rescue was attempted by military personnel and vigilantes - many of whom were killed.

The army said on Wednesday that 10 people were killed in the attack.

But a source involved in dealing with the aftermath told AFP on Thursday: "The death toll keeps mounting. Now we have more than 50... and more bodies are coming in.

"It's clear that the attack wasn't for abduction. They (Boko Haram) attacked just to kill."

Security meeting

During a security meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja Thursday evening, the government decided to increase its military presence in the area including the reopening of the army command centre in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

At the meeting headed by acting president Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was Defence minister Mansur Dan-Ali and army chiefs including heads of the land, naval and air units.

“We have agreed that we should get more surveillance devices and cameras that will be able to see any attackers approaching our troops,” Mr Dan-Ali said.

He said that the military was struggling to assert its dominance during the rainy season, “but effort is geared towards regaining back our areas,” he added.

“All these ambushes that are happening regularly will be stopped,” he said.

Sambisa forest

The command centre had been set up on orders of President Muhammadu Buhari – who is seeking unspecified treatment in the UK since May – in 2015 to intensify the war against the insurgents and flush them out of their main camp, the Sambisa Forest.

The Nigerian military said in December that it had ousted Boko Haram from their Sambisa Forest stronghold.

While the jihadists have lost significant swathes of territory, they have been forced to rely on guerrilla tactics, particularly suicide bomb attacks, against the security forces and civilian militia.

Women and young girls in particular have been used against civilian "soft" targets such as mosques, as well as the University of Maiduguri, which teaches the "western" education the group despises. 

Reports indicate that the university has suffered more than 22 attacks in the last three weeks.

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