The Nigerian Army has debunked claims by Amnesty International that Boko Haram killed 60 civilians in an attack on Rann on January 28, 2019.
A statement issued by Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director of Public Relations, Theatre Command, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, on Saturday, noted that a search of the area was conducted, and 60 bodies were not found.
The Army maintained that the attack AI referred to, actually happened on January 14, 2019.
The statement read: “The attention of the Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE has been drawn to recent claims by Amnesty International (AI) that troops’ abandonment of their deployment led to the killing of 60 civilians in Rann on 28 January 2018.
“Undoubtedly, it is disheartening that the situation of Internally Displaced Persons( IDPs) who are already traumatized having been displaced from their ancestral homes by insurgency is being further aggravated by recent callous Boko Haram attack on the IDP community.
“However, it is most unacceptable and unfair for AI to make such outlandish and unverified claims that troops abandoned their deployment a day before Boko Haram attack on the location, thereby exposing the IDPs to a deadly attack.
“This claim is not only bereft of truth, but in its usual mannerism, another futile effort by AI to portray the Nigerian military as incapable, as well as project the Nigerian government as not protective of her people in the eyes of the global community. It is therefore inevitable to address this misinformation being peddled and fed the public, from AI’s obviously uninformed report.
“It must be clarified that contrary to insinuations by AI that troops abandoned their deployment a day before Boko Haram astorgous attack on Rann on 28 January 2019, Rann never actually came under any attack on the date claimed by AI. Rather Rann experienced that unfortunate attack on 14 January 2018, and in that encounter, the troops proved their mettle and gallantry by neutralizing two suicide bombers and three Boko Haram foot soldiers, while several took to their heels with gun shot wounds. With the support of troops from the Multi National Joint Task, who later joined in the battle, the insurgents were finally overpowered.”
The Nigerian Army faulted AI for not carrying out a proper investigation, just as it restated it’s commitment to winning the fight against insurgency.
The statement continued: “It is also crucial to mention here, as has been reported in an earlier press release, signed by Deputy Director Army Public Relations of Sector 1 that the Theatre Commander, Major General Benson Akinroluyo, and the Commander Sector 1 Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Brigadier General Bulama Biu, wasted no time in swiftly responding to the development, as they immediately embarked on a long range patrol to Rann, as well as other adjoining communities within the area, during which they conducted battle damage assessment.
“Contrary to AI’s claims, at no point of the assessment, was any report of the killing of 60 civilians made either by the civilians themselves, whom the Sector Commander interacted with or by the members of the Joint Task Force who were at hand during the assessment. Again a Search and Rescue Operation that followed after the attack did not recover the said 60 bodies of killed civilians as AI would want members of the public to believe. The troops commenced a clearance operation in villages surrounding Rann and destroyed Boko Haram terrorists camps that were uncovered during the operation. In one of such clearance operations on 30 January 2019, the troops encountered an ambush staged by the terrorists along Gamboru-Mafa road and gallantly fought through it, overpowering the insurgents.
“Another issue in the controvertible AI report is the alleged attack on Rann on 28 January 2019, where as there was no such attack. Rather, an alarm was raised by IDPs in Rann of the sudden withdrawal of Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) troops from the location, to which the authorities of Operation LAFIYA quickly responded, following which the Commander Sector 1 returned to Rann on Monday, 29 January, with reinforcement troops to beef-up and support the troops there.
“The astronomical statistics of human casualty touted by AI and the alleged abdication of duty by our selfless and resilient troops cannot hold water in the face of facts of the several exemplary physical involvements of the Theatre Commander and the Commander Sector 1 as well as Commanders of 22 Brigade and 3 Battalion in ensuring normalcy returns to Rann and the reinforcement and replenishment of the troops.
“Evidently, in its characteristic inclination to swiftly accuse the Nigerian military of wrongdoing, AI failed again to conduct a validity check on its manufactured data before cooking its report.
“No doubt, in battles, collateral damages are unfortunately incurred and troops in the front line are first victims to suffer such damages, up to the point of sacrificing their lives, as they are saddled with the duty to defend their country and the citizenry. We are deeply touched by the demise of those who fell during the callous attack of Rann by Boko Haram terrorists. We are also empathic with humanitarian organizations as well as members of International and local NGOs who were affected by the attack. It is indeed another reminder and clarion call on the international and local communities to support the Nigerian military to bring the dastardly and mindless acts of Boko terrorists to a decisive end.
“We seize this opportunity to reiterate that our responsibility of defending our fatherland and protecting our people remain our pride and conscience no matter the amount of distraction and smear campaigns.”