Boko Haram: Row over ‘desertion’ of 480 soldiers

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Aug 25th, 2014
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No defection to Cameroon, says DHQ

Sect seizes Madagali

Did 480 Nigerian soldiers defect to Cameroon to avoid fighting Boko Haram?

A Cameroonian official said they did. But the military denied it all, saying the Nigerian soldiers were involved in a “tactical manoeuvre”.

The matter remained unclear last night as the Defence Headquarters insisted that there was no defection.

The BBC reported that 480 Nigerian soldiers were in Cameroon, following their alleged refusal to fight the insurgents.

The Director of Defence Information, Major-Gen. Chris Olukolade,  in a statement on the alleged disarming of the 480 soldiers in Cameroon, said: “The Nigerian troops that were found in Cameroon was as a result of a sustained battle between the troops and the terrorists around the borders with Cameroon, which saw the Nigerian troops charging through the borders in a tactical manoeuver.

“Eventually, they found themselves on Cameroonian soil. Being allies, the normal protocol of managing such incident demanded that the troops submit their weapons in order to assure the friendly country that they were not on a hostile mission.

“Following necessary discussions between Nigerian and Cameroonian military authorities, the issues have been sorted out. Subsequently, the troops are on their way back to join their unit in Nigeria.

“The reference to the incident as a defection is, therefore, not appropriate, considering the discussion between the two countries’ military leadership and the series of contacts with the soldiers who have confirmed that they are safe.

“Meanwhile, troops are repelling a group of terrorists who are trying to enter the country through Gamboru-Ngala. A group of them who fizzled into the town are being pursued.”

“We have sorted out things with the Cameroonian authorities.”

A top military source gave an insight into how the soldiers strayed into Cameroon.

He debunked insinuations that the soldiers defected or ran away from confronting book Haram insurgents.

The source said: “To say that 480 soldiers defected is incorrect. That is almost a battalion which comprises 500 soldiers. We did not see the presence of the soldiers in Cameroon as defection.

“The soldiers had crossed to Cameroonian borders near Gamboru-Ngala axis in pursuit of fleeing Boko Haram insurgents.

“It is normal to disarm foreign troops when they cross into your country. Such troops must surrender their arms and ammunition. There are military barriers in combat relationship between two countries.”

Asked why the Cameroonian Army disarmed Nigerian soldiers following recent tripartite understanding by Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger, the source said: “We have to comply with military’s international best practices.

“The agreement in France enabled us to easily recall these 480 soldiers.”

But there were indications last night that the DHQ had ordered a probe into the “presence” of the 480 soldiers in Cameroon.

But the Cameroon Army, in a report on the BBC, claimed that the soldiers defected .

Cameroon Army spokesman Lt. Col. Didier Badjek said the soldiers had been disarmed and were being accommodated in schools.

Clashes were continuing in the border town of Gamboru-Ngala.

Boko Haram on Sunday released a video in which it said it had established an Islamic state in the towns and villages it controls in the northeast especially Gwoza.

The Nigerian soldiers are in the Cameroonian town of Maroua, about 80km (50 miles) from the Nigerian border, Lt. Col. Badjek told the BBC.

Thousands of civilians have also fled across the border.

In May, about 300 people were killed in an attack on Gamboru-Ngala, which left much of the town in ruins.

It is near Gwoza, the largest town under control of Boko Haram. In the most recent census, in 2006, it had a population of more than 265,000 people.

In the 52-minute video released on Sunday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said Gwoza was now “part of the Islamic state”.

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