Cameroon has confirmed that it is holding about 480 Nigerian soldiers who fled to its territory following fierce confrontation with Boko Haram militants over the weekend.
This disclosure was made on Monday, 25 August, 2014, by the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, quoting the spokesman for the Cameroonian Army, Lt. Col. Didier Badjek, as saying the soldiers had been disarmed and were now being accommodated in schools.
As at the time of compiling this report, the Nigerian military authorities are yet to confirm or deny this claim.
Reports had informed earlier on Monday that the Boko Haram insurgents had captured Gamboru-Ngala, a key town on Nigeria border with Cameroon part of Borno State after fierce fighting between men of the Nigerian Army and the militants.
It was gathered that the insurgents had launched attack on an army barrack in the area before they took over the town and embarked on a house to house raid.
The attack on Gamboru Ngala comes after the town was almost entirely destroyed in May in a devastating assault that also left more than 300 people killed and prompted outrage at the lack of military response.
A security service source had informed AFP that many residents in the area sought refuge across the border in the north Cameroon town of Fotokol.
The Islamist sect had seized Gwoza, Borno State which is a base for a police college last Wednesday, killing scores of the residents and forcing thousands others to flee to Mubi, in neighbouring Adamawa State as refugees.
Nigeria Police said on Saturday that about 35 of its men who were on training during the attack are still missing.
Boko Haram, which has been blamed for more than 10,000 deaths in a five-year-old uprising, has in recent weeks sought to take over a number of towns in Borno state, shifting from hit-and-run tactics to an apparent holding strategy.
It would be recalled that Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, had in a video released on Sunday, 24 August, announced that the insurgents had turned the town of Gwoza and the surrounding countryside which the group had earlier seized into an “Islamic Caliphate.”
Nigeria’s military dismissed Shekau’s claim as “empty”, maintaining that the country’s sovereignty remained intact.
But that assertion is in conflict with multiple reports indicating that Boko Haram controls several towns in Borno and at least one in neighbouring Yobe state.
Analysts believe that Boko Haram will attempt to hold more towns in Borno in the short to mid-term, with Nigeria’s military unable or unwilling to tackle them.
Some Nigerian troops stationed in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, have recently refused to be deployed to Gwoza because of what they say are sub-standard weapons that leave them at the mercy of the better-equipped rebels.
Defence analysts have also argued that Nigeria needs to improve its counter-insurgency strategy and adapt to guerrilla fighting rather than relying on conventional means.
Others complain of a lack of political will to properly tackle Boko Haram, which wants to establish a hardline Islamic state and whose campaign has targeted schools, churches and government installations.