By Valentine Amanze
The Nigerian Army has confirmed the death of one of its generals and three soldiers during an encounter with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants in Borno State, North East Nigeria at the weekend.
Army spokesman, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, stated that troops had encountered ISWAP fighters in Borno State’s Askira Uba council, where a fierce battle that claimed several militants.
“Sadly, a gallant senior officer Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice … as they provided reinforcement in a counter offensive against the terrorists,” Nwachukwu stated.
Military sources and residents told Reuters that ISWAP fighters attacked Askira on Saturday morning with at least 12 gun trucks, burning houses, shops and a school and forcing some residents to flee.
The army had brought in reinforcements but the battle was still ongoing as at Saturday evening, sources said.
Askira is about 150 kilometres south of Borno State capital, Maiduguri, and lies along the fringes of Sambisa Forest, the operational base of both Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Security sources said ISWAP fighters had also separately attacked troops near Maiduguri town, but there were no immediate details on casualties.
Nigeria’s army said last month it had killed the new ISWAP leader in a military operation, weeks after announcing the death of the group’s former head Abu Musab al-Barnawi.
ISWAP split from Boko Haram five years ago and pledged allegiance to Islamic State and has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces.
Borno State is at the centre of the Islamist insurgency, which has spilled into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon and has left about 300,000 people dead and millions dependent on aid, the United Nations says.