The Nigerian Army is set to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a Commanding Officer (272 Task Force Tank Battalion) Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, killed Friday night by Boko Haram, Daily Sun can authoritatively reveal.
This Army authorities have since concluded plans to bury the deceased officer at the Abuja national military cemetery, with full military honors.
Lieutenant-Colonel Abu-Ali, a member of 50 Regular Course from the Nigerian Defence Academy(NDA), was commissioned into the Nigerian army on August, 23, 2003.
There are indications that the officer may be given a posthumous promotion before he is buried.
Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that the death of the officer is not going down well with the top echelon of the service.
They believe that some persons within the army may have given the enemy details of how a group of soldiers, belonging to the special forces trained in Belarus, were asked to relocated from Mallam Fatori, in northern Borno (where soldiers of 272 Tank Battalion are presently located) to Maiduguri, on the day of the attack.
Army sources told Daily Sun that although the order to withdraw from the operational area – where the special forces have been since June – did not go down well with the soldiers, given the security nature of the area, the troops had to obey the last order and got to Maiduguri at about five o’clock on Friday.
A top army source, who does not want to be mentioned on print, said investigations into the matter has already commenced as some personnel are beginning to tell the authorities of what the know.
Sources said Malam Fatori, which is a boarder town between Cameroon and Niger Republic, can best be described as in the heat of battle for now, as terrorists attack military locations almost on a daily basis.
A source gave a vivid description of what happened on the day of the incident.
“What happened was that there was a signal that fifty soldiers of our special forces be withdraw from Malam Fatomari, to Maidiguri. The reason was that they are to embark on a special operations at Sambisa forest.
“Although we were not happy when we received the signal, given the nature of the security situation there and the role these special forces soldiers are playing there, the soldiers had to comply with the order.
“Apart from that, one of the senior officers, who came to ensure that the troops withdraw from the area, was not looking too relaxed when he came. He was in such a hurry that he even left without his soldiers, which is very unusual.
“He was supposed to have left with the soldiers, but somehow he left without them and drove on that dangerous road alone with his escort which is very unusual.
“The soldiers, who were not happy with the development, then proceeded on their own. It was on the way that they caught up with him and his soldiers and that was only because they missed their way.
“They took the wrong road and when they realized it decided to turn back. It was when they got to the right route that they met with the soldiers with whom they were supposed to have embarked on the journey together.”
“And so that night at about eight o’clock, the terrorists who are mostly Cameronians, Nigerien, Nigerians, and other nationals who have been operating in the area, decided to attack as usual.
“The soldiers fought back and the shootout lasted for about two hours. When the terrorists could no longer stand our fire power they retreated. But the soldiers didn’t know that some of the terrorists were hiding close by and were only buying time.
“And so when the commanding officer felt that the area was cool and calm, he decided to come out of his tank to boost the morale of the troops, which he usually does after every such operation and to find out the number of casualty on his side.
“After greeting the soldiers and urging them to keep the fighting spirit high, he was walking back to the tank only for the terrorists, who have been looking for him for sometime now, to open fire and kill him.”
The source said that since the sudden death of the officer, the morale of troops has not been the same.
The entire theatre of operation, it was said, was thrown into mourning as soldiers cried uncontrollably and refused to be consoled.
Top military sources told Daily Sun that with the killing of the commanding officer, it is now evident that indeed some persons who are benefitting from the counterinsurgency do not want the war to end because of what they may be benefitting.
With the death of lieutenant colonel Abu Ali, the source says the army is having to confront the issue of fifth columnists within their ranks who are actively working against the counter insurgency.
The source said that with what happened one cannot rule out the fact that the terrorists got advance information about the withdrawal of not just soldiers but members of the Special Forces from the operation area.
“Knowing that withdrawing these calibre of fighters would definitely affect operations, they (Boko Haram) decided to take advantage and strike as they may not have such opportunity again.”
The military authority has, however, been able to put measures in place to arrest the situation, it was reported.