Nigerian Military Authorities Deny Amnesty International Report of Advance Warning On Chibok

Nigeria’s military authorities have stoutly denied a claim by Amnesty International (AI) that troops last month spurned an advance four-hour warning to prevent the Boko Haram attack on Chibok in which hundreds of girls were abducted.
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AIl made the claim in a report published earlier in the day.  In it, the organization claimed that between 7:00 p.m. on April 14 and 2:00 a.m. on April 15, the military commands in Damboa, 36.5 km away from Chibok, and Maiduguri, 130 km away from Chibok, were repeatedly alerted to the threat by both security and local officials.

In its response signed by Major General Chris Olukolade, the Director of Defence Information at Defence Headquarters (DHQ), the military authorities repudiated that account.  They claimed that the troops only received information of the attack on Chibok community from troops on patrol when it was in progress.  The patrol troops engaged the terrorists and called for reinforcements.

“As the troops on reinforcement traversed the over 120km rugged and tortuous road from Maiduguri to Chibok, they ran into an ambush by terrorists who engaged them in fierce firefight and a number of soldiers lost their lives,” the statement said.  “Another set of soldiers also mobilized for the mission arrived after the terrorists had escaped due to a series of misleading information that slowed down the pursuit.”

The general explained that in view of the vast terrain of the mission area, deployment has been more on the basis of patrols than static ones.

Bristling at the suggestion of cowardice on the part of the troops, he said it was “particularly confounding” because the military has an internal mechanism for dealing with such tendencies.

“These spurious allegations are obviously a continuation of the campaign intended to cause disaffection, portray the military in bad light and undermine the counter-terrorism efforts,” he said.

“Although the Chibok incident is still subject to more investigation, the Defence Headquarters appeals to individuals and organizations to refrain from circulating spurious allegations that could undermine both the operation and investigation of conduct of the mission generally.”

General Olukolade’s account differs widely from that of AI, which observed that the army’s inability to muster troops – due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups – meant that reinforcements were not deployed to Chibok that night.

“The small contingent of security forces based in the town – 17 army personnel as well as local police – attempted to repel the Boko Haram assault but were overpowered and forced to retreat. One soldier reportedly died.”

This contradicts the general’s account that there were no static troops, no matter how few, in the area.

It is also unclear from his account how Boko Haram, following its clash with Nigerian troops and the reinforcements they called for, was able to spirit hundreds of girls so far away in trucks with no trace whatsoever, especially given the air cover the troops are said to enjoy.

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