ABOVE PHOTO: Emergency personnel collect bodies following an attack by suicide bombers at the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Witnesses and soldiers say a number of people have been killed as Nigerian troops battled Boko Haram suicide bombers and fighters to repel an attack on the outskirts of northeastern Maiduguri city. (AP Photo/Jossy Ola)
By Haruna Umar
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Nigerian troops fought Boko Haram in the Lake Chad area on Saturday, killing 13 of the Islamic extremists and arresting 10 others, including six women believed to have helped smuggle supplies to the insurgents, an army spokesman said.
Meanwhile witnesses said four civilians out hunting for food near a displacement camp in the northeast were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram militants.
Soldiers from the 8 Task Force Battalion spent 72 hours clearing the location where the Boko Haram fighters were hiding, said battalion spokesman Col. Timothy Antigha. Many other Boko Haram fighters were wounded by gunfire, he said.
The troops, operating in the Chikun Gudu, Tumbuma Karami and Tumbuma Baba areas recovered three AK 47 rifles and one pump-action rifle, assorted rifle magazines and 306 rounds of ammunition, a tool box, a freezer and a Toyota truck, he said.
In a related development, army troops, acting on a tip off, rounded up 10 suspected Boko Haram smugglers, he said. The suspects, six females and four males, are being investigated to determine the extent of their involvement with Boko Haram, he said.
Since the army regained control of most of the Sambisa Forest area in northeastern Nigeria from Boko Haram in December 2016, Nigerian troops have pursued the extremist fighters in areas where they have fled.
Boko Haram’s violent campaign to seize Nigerian territory to enforce strict Islamic Shariah rule is responsible for the deaths of thousands and has displaced about 3 million people, mostly women and children, since 2009. Thousands have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, including nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2015.
Joyous scenes occurred in the capital, Abuja, Saturday when 82 newly freed Chibok schoolgirls were reunited with their families. Nigeria’s government negotiated with Boko Haram, with help from Swiss officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to secure the freedom of the young women from Chibok in return for the release of five extremist commanders.
On Sunday, witnesses in the northeast said a 12-person hunting team had come under attack near Maiduguri.
Six managed to escape the attack while two others are still missing, according to Abba Kalli, an official of the Civilian-JTF, a local youth vigilante group helping the soldiers to fight Boko Haram.