Abducted girls: Joint military operation begins this week

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Top officers of Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters and military experts from the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries held their first meeting in Abuja on Saturday evening.

The meeting signified effective commencement of the allied operations against Boko Haram insurgents and the search for the abducted girls of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.

Investigations revealed that the meeting started late in the afternoon and ended before 8pm at the Defence Headquarters.

The Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, did not comment on the meeting when one of our correspondents called to get his response on the issue.

However, a military source, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity, said the meeting was an operational briefing which was attended by senior military officers.

Investigations revealed that the meeting was attended by the National Security Adviser, Col. Dasuki Sambo (retd.), the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, the three service chiefs and high ranking military officers in strategic positions.

A security source said the meeting discussed the need for all to avoid the blame game in the concerted quest to deal with the issue of the missing girls.

The Nigerian side was said to have observed that there had been collaborative efforts between the US and Nigeria on the issue of terrorism preceding the outcry generated by the abduction of the girls.

It was further gathered that the attention of the foreign team was called to earlier efforts by the National Security Adviser who was said to have visited the US on several occasions to press for American support on the issue of insurgency.

The source stated, “The important thing is that with the meeting, they have taken off and they have started well.”

“They recognised the fact that there is an Army on the ground that has been working. The process would be swift, precise and that hostage rescue remains the most delicate of military operations which required a lot of caution because of the issue of the human life involved.”

The source also said it was the position of the military that one of the greatest factors militating against the success of the ongoing operation was collaboration between the insurgents and the local communities.

The source said the foreign forces would commence effective operation with their Nigerian counterparts this week.

The source explained that a major area of focus in the operation would be on intelligence gathering which would involve massive deployment of high technology equipment for the military action against the insurgents.

The source said that high sophisticated equipment like drones, and remote sensors with the capacity to penetrate buildings and detect human beings and also differentiate between adults and children would be used.

He said, “One thing is that even  before their coming, there has been a lot of intelligence gathering. Such collaboration has been ongoing.

“With the new development, there will be more intensive intelligence gathering; more sophisticated intelligence equipment like drones and remote sensors would be used.

“High-tech remote sensors that can penetrate buildings, differentiate between  adults and children would be deployed.  The troops are coming with high  technological equipment.

“On the ground here in Nigeria, they have not started operations, but it would be very  soon. I can say next week.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government,  in December,  last year, requested the United States’ assistance in form of intelligence and surveillance to fight Boko Haram.

A US  medium, ABC News, reported on Saturday that Nigeria also requested for non-lethal protective hardware  such as mine-resistant armoured personnel vehicles, night vision goggles and communications equipment.

The equipment was from Iraq and Afghanistan stockpiles left over from U.S. withdrawals.

There were reports on Sunday that the Federal Government, for weeks, rebuffed offers by the international community to assist in rescuing the abducted girls.

But contrary to the report, the ABC News  stated that two months before Boko Haram  was designated an Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US in November 2013, Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser signed a $3m-a-year contract with K Street firm Patton Boggs.

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