We see children’s footprints in Sambisa forest, says Army chief

Soldiers of the Nigerian Army penetrating Sambisa forest, the strongholds of Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri.

Soldiers of the Nigerian Army penetrating Sambisa forest, the strongholds of Boko Haram insurgents in Maiduguri.

• Military intensifies push into Boko Haram stronghold
Children’s footprints have been spotted in Sambisa Forest (Boko Haram’s stronghold) by Nigerian soldiers, according to Commander of the 29th Task Force Brigade, Brigadier-General B.A. Raji.

However, paucity of needed equipment like thermal imaging cameras hamper operations, he said.

He explained that it was from this intelligence that troops use the most basic of tracking skills to hunt for evidence of people passing through.

“Sometimes we see children’s footprints,” he said, according to an agency report.

Commenting on the intelligence capabilities in gathering data relevant to the search, Ragi said 30 ISR drone planes provide an “eye in the sky” that has helped the soldiers immeasurably, directing them to enclaves of Boko Haram captives. But not their target – the Chibok girls.

On his part, the theater commander of Lafiya Dole in the NorthEast, Major-General Leo Irabor, stressed the need for more international support to crush the insurgents.

In an interview with Nima Elbagir of CNN who went into the heart of Sambisa forest with the military, Irabor while commending his men’s achievement in pushing back Boko Haram said Nigeria’s close cooperation with the United States in running operations based off of air reconnaissance has led to clearing a significant portion along the east of the Sambisa forest and some promising wins.

“We do have pockets of the Boko Haram terrorists still left in some places but very largely we’ve decimated them,” he said.

There is a sense among the military that as Boko Haram has lost their territorial footprint, they are regrouping and using asymmetrical tactics, deploying waves of would be suicide bombers — some successful, some not — to inflict terror as opposed to the ground assaults they once unleashed. Irabor believes the militant group’s current capacity is “limited” and credits his force’s recent missions for the halt in attacks.

Just last month, the Nigerian Army captured Boko Haram’s camp in Alagarno forest, once considered the group’s “spiritual base” in the northeast.

Irabor also stated that intelligence surrounding the current location of the Chibok girls does, in fact, point to the Sambisa corridor, where his forces continue to advance deeper. But while proud of the accomplishments of his men, he says they need more international support.



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