Jihadists, mainly members of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Boko Haram, have killed more than 100 soldiers and seized a “huge stock [of] weapons” during clashes in northeast Nigeria raging since December 26, a coalition of United Nations-affiliated aid agencies reported Friday.
In the report, the Global Protection Cluster in Chad, a group of aid agencies led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), noted, “Raids against the Nigerian army have killed more than 100 Nigerian soldiers. According to the information available, the armed groups captured a huge stock of weapons,” according to Reuters.
The Nigerian military denied the aid group’s account for the number of soldiers killed, saying the reported figure is “over-bloated.”
“Undoubtedly we recorded some casualties in these encounters since we are at war and not a picnic, but certainly not the over-bloated casualty statistics being touted by UNHCR,” Onyema Nwachukwu, a spokesman for the Nigerian military, told Reuters.
Although the ISIS-linked Boko Haram is the most prominent terrorist group in Nigeria, the Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been wreaking havoc in recent months, killing hundreds of people, primarily Christian farmers in the African country’s Middle Belt region.
Over the past few weeks, since December 26 in particular, terrorist attacks have intensified in northeastern Nigeria, the birthplace of Boko Haram. The deadly incidents have forced thousands of people to flee to safer areas within Nigeria and over the border into Chad, the aid agencies report acknowledged.
ISIS-linked terrorists are reportedly responsible for the majority of the attacks.
The December 26 attacks in the Baga-Kawa area of northeast Nigeria alone reportedly prompted more than 6,357 people to flee east into Chad and an estimated 20,000 others to flee to safety within Nigeria.
Jihadis from the ISIS wing of Boko Haram temporarily seized the northeastern town of Baga – home to a multi-national force formed by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger – to fight the jihadi group. Nigerian troops later retook control of the town, saying the ISIS faction had given them a “bloody nose.”
Driving in a convoy of more than ten terrorist vehicles, the Boko Haram offshoot known as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried out an attack on the towns of Baga, Doron-Baga, Kross Kawwa, Bunduran, Kekeno, and Kukawa in Borno state between December 26 and December 28.
The Boko Haram wing still loyal to leader Abubakar Shekau is believed to operate separately from ISWAP.
Boko Haram has killed about 30,000 people and forced about two million people to flee their homes since the insurgency began in 2009.
ISWAP has been responsible for attacks on military bases of recent weeks. In contrast, Boko Haram typically carries out suicide bombings and gun raids, though it said it carried out Monday’s attack on the northeast Nigerian town of Rann.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has falsely claimed victory over Boko Haram on several occasions.
“When this administration came, Boko Haram was holding 17 local governments in the northeast. They are not holding any local governments,” said Buhari in a televised interview on Wednesday, when asked about his security record in light of recent attacks.