Many terrorists said to have drowned in Lake Chad after Nigerian air force bombarded their positions to clear way for troops to enter
Nigeria’s military has announced it has recaptured Baga from Boko Haram, more than a month after the town was overrun in the worst massacre of the Islamist terror group’s six-year insurgency.
Defence spokesman Chris Olukoladesaid many terrorists had drowned in LakeChad as they tried to flee bombardment from Nigerian air force jets.
The town, a fishing hub on the shore of the lake in the far north of Borno state in north-east Nigeria, was recaptured on Saturday morning after an assault that began the previous day, he said.
A BBC correspondent in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, said other sources had confirmed that Boko Haram no longer controlled Baga.
Thousands of Baga residents fled the town after Boko Haram attacked on 3 January and hundreds, if not more, were killed in the following days.
Much of the town and 12 surrounding settlements were burned to the ground.
Boko Haram’s capture of Baga – and of a military base used by a multinational force in nearby Doron Baga – was seen as a strategic coup for the group, giving it control of Borno’s entire border area.
It raised fears of attacks in neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, whose frontiers converge with Nigeria’s on Lake Chad, but also a possible push south to the state capital, Maiduguri.
Nigeria’s military had in recent days announced the recapture of Monguno, a garrison town 40 miles from Baga, after ground and air strikes, and a push north-east was expected.
Troops from Nigeria had been joined by soldiers from Niger, Chad and Cameroon in recent weeks as a result of fears about the group’s threat to regional security.
Olukolade said troops had to clear landmines before they were able to enter the town.
“Many of the terrorists died while an unknown but substantial number of them fled with various degrees of injury in the series of encounters along the routes of advance as troops headed for Baga,” he added.
As in Monguno, the military said it had seized and destroyed the insurgents’ arsenal, including five anti-aircraft guns and numerous rifles, as well as 34 motorcycles and five other vehicles.
A cordon had been put in place around the town, and 12 other locations nearby, to allow soldiers to track down arms and ammunition as well as catch militants in the vicinity, said Olukolade.
Nigeria’s apparent success in Baga came after Boko Haram attacked the village of Karouga near Lake Chad in south-eastern Niger on Friday night, killing seven soldiers and losing 14 of its own fighters.
A Chadian security source said Boko Haram members later tried to cross the lake to enter Chad but aircraft destroyed their five boats.
More than 13,000 people have been killed and a million people left homeless since 2009, as the rebels try to carve out an Islamic state in north-eastern Nigeria.
Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria scheduled for 14 February were delayed to 28 March because of the multinational operation against Boko Haram.
Many, though, have viewed as unrealistic the deadline to secure and stabilise the north-east by polling day, to allow those displaced by the violence to return to vote.
Residents of Gamboru, on the border with Cameroon, on Friday returned to their homes for the first time since Chadian troops recaptured it.
“We met a ghost town strewn with burned vehicles, destroyed buildings and emptied homes,” Kachalla Moduye told AFP by telephone from Fotokol after a two-hour tour of the town.
In a sign of the growing international interest in the conflict, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, began a tour of west African countries involved in the fighting.
In Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, he met the president, Idriss Déby, and praised the country’s contribution but said France did not envision any direct intervention in its former colonies.
Instead, France, which has a military base in N’Djamena, has offered to provide tactical support and “coordination among the countries” as well as intelligence information.
Source: Guardian UK


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