A drone was observed over the position of counter insurgency forces before a fierce encounter on Monday, July 18, with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgents led to death of five members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a government-backed militia in northeast Nigeria, according to sources familiar with the incident.
Residents of Gubio town, about 96km northwest of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, woke up on Monday to the news of the ambush and the death of five group members, including the leader Bukar Mandama.
“It was sad for us when we woke up to the news this morning that Boko Haram killed our CJTF Chairman, Alhaji Mandama and other members in an ambush along the Gubio highway,” lamented the Chairman of the Gubio local government council, Bukar Sulum-Zowo.
The combined military and militia team were on an ambush operation against a group of insurgents sighted earlier by locals before encountering the insurgents on their way back to Gubio.
According to the spokesman of the CJTF in the state, Bello Danbatta, the group had laid the ambush for the advancing ISWAP insurgents at a location near a grazing area on the outskirts of Gubio, where they spent Sunday night, but the insurgents failed to show up.
He added that a drone was observed overhead their position. “Our members said they sighted a drone that came whizzing over their location at a point during the night but dismissed it thinking it could be one of the military air assets. After about two sessions of hovering over their location, the drone disappeared and never returned.”
The drone operator is unclear; the Nigerian military uses small and large drones for surveillance and precision strikes. However, the insurgents also use off the shelf drones for scouting the military and generating propaganda materials.
The soldiers and support militia reportedly headed back to Gubio after waiting all night without the insurgents entering the ambush zone. It was during the return trip that insurgents staged the counter-ambush and the exchange of fire resulted in casualties on both sides.
In a statement, ISWAP said it carried out an attack on the road linking the towns of Gubio and Mamuri, allegedly killing eight people.
Five of the deceased CJTF members were buried in Gubio town, while one who survived with an injury is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Maiduguri.
Gubio is located in a strategic position along the corridor used for insurgents movement; the town has been under constant attack by insurgents in recent times. In March this year, insurgents abducted a Principal Medical Officer at the town’s General Hospital.
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