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Suspected Boko Haram militants ambush Nigeria's new army chief in Borno state

Maj. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, a Borno state-native who was named the Nigerian army's chief of staff last month, was a replacement for one of five head figures in Nigeria's military who were sacked for failing to defeat Boko Haram.

By Fred Lambert
Suspected Boko Haram militants ambush Nigeria's new army chief in Borno state
Suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria's Borno state on Aug. 22, 2015 ambushed a convoy carrying the country's newly-appointed chief of army staff, according to the Nigerian military. One soldier and five militants were killed in the encounter. Image from Google Maps

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Suspected Boko Haram militants in Borno state, Nigeria, ambushed a convoy carrying the country's newly-appointed chief of army staff on Saturday, according to reports.

Maj. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai took the post last month after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the country's army, navy, air force and intelligence chiefs, along with its defense staff chief, air marshal and national security adviser.

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Buratai is one of two replacements -- along with National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno -- native to Borno state, where terrorist group Boko Haram has carried out a majority of its attacks.

Saturday's ambush left one soldier and at least five militants dead, the BBC quoted the Nigerian military as saying.

A spokesman for Nigeria's army said Buratai was not hurt in the clash.

The announcement of the replacements last month came as a wave of Boko Haram attacks had killed hundreds of people in just two weeks time.

Buhari, himself a former military officer, took office in May following March elections in which he vowed to crush Boko Haram. During a trip to Benin on Aug. 1, Buhari pledged the extremists would be defeated by the end of the year.

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Despite Boko Haram holding no significant urban strongholds, the group has been blamed for a recent surge in suicide bombings and assaults on remote villages and bases. Earlier this month it was estimated more than 800 people had been killed in Boko Haram attacks since Buhari took office.

Scores of people have perished since then, including last week when up to 150 people drowned or were shot trying to escape a Boko Haram attack on the village of Kukuwa-Gari, in Yobe state.

The ambush on Buratai's convoy comes after Buhari announced last week the recruitment of 10,000 additional police officers, plans to install CCTV monitoring systems in Nigeria's major towns, and the formation of a multi-agency anti-terrorism task force.

Boko Haram, which earlier this year pledged allegiance to Syria- and Iraq-based Sunni terrorist group Islamic State, has since 2009 waged a campaign of suicide attacks, mass kidnapping, group executions and guerrilla assaults seeking an Islamic government in Nigeria. The group has also attacked locations in neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which have in turn committed military force against the extremists.

At least 17,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks, according to Amnesty International.

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