*How the capturing was done, as Army says white man arrested inside dreaded forest
*Underground cells that worked for Boko Haram, how it came about
*Governors, Tinubu hail Buhari over fall of Sambisa Forest
*As Abuja residents present trophy to anti-insecurity warlord, Buhari
By Kemi Kasumu
“A ‘white man’ was also arrested in the forest. The man is under custody and providing positive information…Hundreds of Boko Haram captives, including men, women and children have been freed and taken to safety…All I can tell you is that no big Boko Haram commander is alive in the Sambisa; we are in control of the forest…It took months of planning and mapping because of the size, difficult weather and other factors in the Sambisa Forest.”
The Nigerian Army says it arrested a white man in Sambisa forest, as troops cleared the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents. This came as update emerged on how the 60,000 square-kilometre Sambisa Forest capture was effected. It was gathered that no fewer than 4,200 officers of the Nigerian Army, Air Force and other special forces took part in the operation to uproot the Boko Haram terrorists from their bastion that many have described more like an evil forest. Some officers close to the operations told newsmen on Saturday.
President Muhammadu Buahari, also Saturday, broke the news of the capture of Boko Haram’s last stronghold in a goodwill message to soldiers of the Operation Lafiya Dole over the victory.
It would be recalled that The DEFENDER on Saturday in a report titled, “I’m glad at Sambisa Forest caputure, Says Buhari,” through which the President made declare the final crush of the insurgents who, relying on the briefing by Chief of Army Staff, he said were either killed or some of their remnants were now on the run. Many other news media also reported same.
It was gathered that in the build-up to the operation to storm Sambisa, the United States donated five mine detecting armoured vehicles to the Nigerian Armed Forces, which enabled the military to clear “thousands of improvised explosive devices” that laced the vast Sambisa Forest.
Other powers like Germany also contributed “vital information and logistics” that led to the capture of the forest, sources said.
“The operation to take over Sambisa Forest did not start overnight,” one of the sources said.
Among other places, the Sambisa Forest had been used as fortress by the leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau and members of the Shura (Supreme Council) since 2003, after they were dislodged from Maiduguri and environs, shortly after the declaration of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
The source, a sniper, who returned to Maiduguri from the fringes of the liberated forest on Friday, said while hundreds of Boko Haram fighters were killed during the offensive that began about a month ago, many others were captured alive while attempting to flee.
He said: “A ‘white man’ was also arrested in the forest. The man is under custody and providing positive information.
“Hundreds of Boko Haram captives, including men, women and children have been freed and taken to safety.
“All I can tell you is that no big Boko Haram commander is alive in the Sambisa; we are in control of the forest.
“It took months of planning and mapping because of the size, difficult weather and other factors in the Sambisa Forest.”
The source said that one of the major factors that delayed the takeover of the insurgents’ hideout was the thousands of people, including those living in villages around the vast forest that were being held as human shield by the Boko Haram leaders.
Carrying out the operation
It was gathered that the 4,200 troops were deployed to the Sambisa Forest through various fronts, including Ngurosoye, Konduga/Aulari, Bama, Fulka and Damboa.
“The 151 Battalion of the Nigerian Army advanced into Sambisa through the Banki-Darul Jamal axis, the 27 Battalion advanced through Mafa, the 152 Battalion advanced through Pulka, while the 222 Battalion approached the dreaded forest through the Maiduguri axis,” another soldier, who participated in the operation, said.
He said the operation was carried out day and night.
“When mine detectors cleared the way, troops moved in to confront the insurgents, who were equally well armed with sophisticated fighting equipment.
“Luckily, we always had an edge over them at night because there were fighter jets with night vision devices that were deployed. And whenever the insurgents attempted to flee, there were booby-traps in all the exit points, and we caught or killed them like chickens,” he said.
Underground cells that worked for Boko Haram
The political class, the military high command and the Nigerian soldiers celebrated the capture of the infamous ‘Camp Zero’ at the heart of the Sambisa forest.
Our source said though the ‘Camp Zero’ comprised a cluster of dreaded camps and cells, the strongest and most fortified of all of them was a huge structure with underground cells and armory built for the disbanded National Guards in the 1980s.
“The building has about two layers of underground buildings. It was actually built by the military government in the 1980s for the training of the National Guards. Unfortunately, the place was left like that after the National Guards were disbanded.
“Therefore, after they were forced out of Maiduguri, the Boko Haram found the place as an excellent fortress because everything was there, including water, tunnels for escape and fertile land for farming,” a soldier familiar with the terrain, said.
The National Guard was established by a decree in 1989 by a former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, to combat crime and terrorism.
The Sambisa Forest stretches across six states in the North-East and North-West parts of Nigeria, including Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa and some parts of Kano State.
It got its name from the village of Sambisa in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, which shares borders with the Republic of Cameroon.
Buhari glad, boosts military morale
In his message, President Buhari urged the troops to maintain the tempo by pursuing the terrorists and bringing them to justice.
He also called on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that would expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.
The President said further efforts should be intensified to locate and free the remaining Chibok schoolgirls still in captivity, praying: “May God be with them.”
He congratulated and commended “the able leadership of the Nigerian Army in particular, and indeed, that of the Armed Forces in general, for making this possible.”
Buhari added: “This, no doubt, will go a long way in improving the security situation, not only in the North-East, but the country in general. But we must not let our guards down.
“Once more, congratulations to our troops and all, who, in one way or another, contributed to this most commendable and momentous effort. May the Almighty continue to be with you.
“I wish you a Merry Christmas and a most rewarding and peaceful Year 2017 ahead.”
Governors say Buhari’s ability to fight insecurity never in doubt from his 2015 election
Leaders across the political spectrum have been calling President Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him and the leadership of the armed forces on the takeover of the Sambisa Forest from the Boko Haram terrorists.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said this in a statement on Sunday.
He said: “In the latest series of calls received by the President, the Governors of Jigawa, Kano, Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, Katsina, Kaduna and Sokoto had joined some of their colleagues from South-East, South-South, South-West and North Central states who made earlier calls to commend the President on the achievement of this feat which, they said, had pleased the Nigerian people and was also being celebrated all over the world.”
Shehu said the governors assured Buhari that the whole country was behind him in his efforts to secure the country and make it safe for.
According to him, the governors also stated that there could not be any meaningful development without security.
He said they also paid tributes to the brave service men and women who made supreme sacrifices in the liberation of the Sambisa Forest and hoped that their services would never be forgotten.
Shehu Garba, according to the statement, narrated how the governors urged the President to mobilise all resources, both human and material, to sustain the gains made so far in the fight against terrorism and economic sabotage.
The presidential spokesman said the governors added that the attainments of the armed forces under his leadership was something that was never in doubt at the time of his election in 2015.
He said they called on the United Nations, the United States, the European Union as well as “the rich countries of Asia, the Middle-East and international aid and donor agencies to raise their support to Nigeria in order to quicken the pace of the resettlement and rehabilitation of the millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps across the country.”
Fall of Sambisa Forest: Tinubu hails Buhari, congratulates Nigeria, Army
*Says Buhari has given Nigeria a most wonderful Christmas gift
In the meantime, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has congratulated the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Army over the capture of Sambisa Forest, the last stronghold of Boko Haram terror sect.
The party stalwart said this following the declaration by President Buhari that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole had finally entered Boko Haram’s Camp Zero located in the heart of Sambisa Forest on Friday and crushed the insurgents.
In a statement by his Media Office on Sunday in Lagos, the former Lagos State governor also commended the troops for their bravery and resilience, asking them to now move to establish their hold on the area.
Tinubu said: “I congratulate the nation, President Buhari and the Army for crushing Boko Haram in their last stronghold of Sambisa Forest. I congratulate the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole for their bravery and resilience. They have given the nation a most wonderful Christmas gift.
“I know the insurgents were engaged in their last desperate acts and merely clutching to their last straw. Now they have been put down. Terror will have no place in our land. The end is here.
“I commend the troops. I thank them again for their courage and bravery. It’s time to finish the job and locate and liberate the remaining Chibok schoolgirls abducted from their school in 2014.”
Abuja residents carry not last as they present trophy to Buhari
Delegation of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Sunday paid Christmas homage to President Muhammadu Buhari and saluted his administration’s efforts for successfully crushing Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the delegation was led by the Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammed Bello, the FCT Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Jonah Samson and the Aso Rock Chaplain, Pastor Oluseyi Malomo.
Bello, Samson and Malomo, who spoke at the event, particularly commended the leadership qualities of the president, which they said had led to the capturing of the Sambisa forest by the troops of the Operation Lafiya Dole.
Malomo presented a locally made artworks and a trophy to the president for the historic capturing of the Sambisa forest, saying that the president must be appreciated for his good work.
“We will not wait till the completion of all your projects before we start giving you awards.
“ As we are getting the landmark results particularly the Sambisa forest that has been cleared, we though from the Chapel we must come and thank you for the good works God is using you to do for our nation,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the FCT Minister commended President Buhari for the success recorded by the nation’s troops that cleared Sambisa Forest of insurgents.
“We are very proud of this milestone and we prayed that Boko Haram never rear its head in any part of the country again,” the minister said.
Samson on his part, said they were in the Presidential Villa to identify with Buhari and commend him for his leadership which have impacted positively on Nigerians.
He particularly commended the President for his administration’s anti-corruption war.
He expressed the hope that the anti-graft war would not end with this administration.
“Corruption is a cankerworm. It is a terrible thing that we must kill. We urge you to ensure that the war continues. It should not end during this administration.
“We thank God for the victory over Boko Haram. It is a thing of joy worthy of celebration.”
In his remarks, President Buhari urged religious and traditional leaders to continue to preach the virtues of love, patience and peace as government continue to put efforts at pulling the economy out of recession.
He said that the Federal Government would concentrate more on the development of the nation’s infrastructure to create millions of jobs for the unemployed youths across the country.