MILITARY LIBERATES GULAK, OTHERS; CLOSES IN ON SHEKAU

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• President: Troops will sustain push against terrorists 
• Hollande: France confident about Nigeria’s future
Senator Iroegbu and Jaiyeola Andrews in Abuja, Daji Sani in Yola
The military on Friday made further gains in its offensive against the terrorist Boko Haram sect by routing them from Bara, the headquarters of Gulani Local Government Area of Yobe State and Gulak, the headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
This is coming on the heels of reports that the military is fast closing in on the dreaded leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, whose double had been reported killed twice since the declaration of the States of Emergency in 2013.
On the same day, President Goodluck Jonathan expressed confidence that Nigerian troops would sustain the momentum built up in the ongoing full scale operations against the terrorists Boko Haram sect.
Aside from Gulak and Bara liberated by the military, other locations also cleared in the course of the two-day operation against the terrorists in the North-east included Shikah, Fikayel, Tetebah, Buza, Kamla and Bumsa.
According to a statement from the military authorities, fierce fighting that preceded the clearing of the towns and other communities resulted in appreciable casualties on the side of the terrorists.
The military said it captured some of the terrorists and recovered thousands of assorted rounds of ammunition as well as vehicles and other equipment including; Anti-Aircraft Guns, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), Grenades, Multi-barrel bombs, Multi-barrel Grenade Launchers, rifles and mortar guns.
Residents of Gulak taking refuge in Yola, the state’s capital went into wild jubilation when news filtered in that their local government had been liberated.
Madagali was among the seven local government areas of the state captured by the Boko Haram insurgents last year but six were liberated by the troops leaving Madagali in the hands of the insurgents until yesterday when it was also liberated.
The residents expressed gratitude to President Jonathan for boosting the morale of the troops during his visits to the state on Thursday adding that the visit had impacted on the fight against the insurgents.
One of the residents, who simply identified himself, Mallam Musa said they got the news of the liberation of Gulak on BBC Hausa news and their men who were still living on mountain tops, who also called to break the good news to them.
Military closes in on Shekau…
Meanwhile, the military is fast closing in on the dreaded leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau.
Intelligence sources disclosed to THISDAY that Shekau had been cornered but could not yet be taken out because of the use of captured girls, women and children as shield by him.
A top intelligence source, who doesn’t want to give more details because of the sensitive nature of the operation, noted that “Shekau’s operational areas had been depleted and the military are ever closer to locating him”.
“The military knows where he is but the truth is that he is using some of the captives as shield,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Western forces in the lake Chad region are said to have avoided confrontation with the insurgents.
The AFP reported yesterday that Canadian Special Forces participating in military training in southeast Niger, near the border with Nigeria, were ordered to withdraw recently to avoid fighting Boko Haram.
According to the report, the troops had been posted to the town of Diffa, where the government of Niger declared a state of emergency on February 11 following attacks in the region that borders Boko Haram’s stronghold in Northeast Nigeria.
The Canadians, it noted, were participating in US-sponsored counter-terrorism training that started on February 16 and due to end on March 9.
The annual programme has 1,300 troops from 19 countries training militaries in five African countries in shooting, movement, communications, and mission planning.
Dominique Tessier from Canada’s defense department did not say how many Canadians were at risk of confrontation with Boko Haram, but noted in an email to AFP that “several members” were relocated from Diffa to other areas such as Agadez and Niamey in Niger and N’Djamena in Chad “due to security issues.”
“This was seen as a prudent measure given the current security situation in the region,” Tessier said, adding the exercise continues.
The Canadian Special Forces also stand ready to provide humanitarian or other assistance, should Ottawa decide to offer help, Tessier said.
President: Troops to sustain push against terrorists…
In a related development, President Jonathan has assured that the military would sustain the push against the terrorists.
Jonathan who spoke while hosting with the outgoing French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Jacques Champagne De Labriolle at the Presidential Villa, Abuja assured that the military would rapidly recover more territories from the sect.
The President noted that the officers and men of the Nigerian Army he met on the frontlines in Borno and Adamawa states on Thursday were in very high spirits, well prepared and determined to successfully complete their operations against Boko Haram.
“We have already recovered much territory and very soon, our troops will clear the terrorists out of other areas not presently under our control’’ the President assured the French Ambassador
Welcoming a congratulatory message from President Francois Hollande to Nigeria for recent successes of its armed forces against Boko Haram, Jonathan restated Nigeria’s appreciation of France’s unwavering support for the country and its neighbours in the fight against terrorism.
Jonathan particularly commended his French counterpart for organising the Paris Summit of Heads of State of Nigeria, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Niger and Chad in May 2014 to foster greater regional cooperation against terrorism and insurgency.
In his remarks, Ambassador Labriolle said that France was confident about the future of Nigeria and its ability to continue playing a huge role in Africa and world affairs.”
The ambassador expressed delight at improved trade and economic ties between Nigeria and France in the last three years, saying over 250 French companies are currently operating in Nigeria.
Source: Thisday

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