At least three soldiers have been killed after being caught in an ambush by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria.
Security and civilian sources said Thursday that the attack took place a day earlier near the town of Damboa in the restive Borno state.
A senior military officer said the convoy targeted in the attack was traveling between Damboa and Borno’s capital of Maiduguri.
“We lost three soldiers in the ambush by Boko Haram terrorists,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding, "The terrorists in large number opened fire on the convoy of the commanding officer of 81 Battalion ... Five other troops were injured in the intense battle that broke out when soldiers engaged the attackers.”
The officer said the Nigerian military swiftly sent reinforcements, forcing militants to retreat.
Others caught in the Wednesday ambush gave similar accounts about the attack.
“I was one of those trailing behind the military convoy when Boko Haram opened fire and soldiers responded with fire,” Sani Mato, a commercial bus driver, said, adding, “The soldiers were able to repel the attack but lost three men. Five were also injured.”
Boko Haram has been largely pushed back out of its main strongholds in northern Nigeria, according to the country’s military and government. The group, however, is still active in their Sambisa Forest enclave in Borno and launches sporadic attacks on civilians and security forces there.
The Nigerian military launched renewed counter-insurgency offensives after the end of the rainy season in northeastern Nigeria in September. Those offensives have clearly caused attacks by Boko Haram to drop, but the government warns that the group can still attack civilians at “soft” targets, including mosques, markets and camps for displaced people.
Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced as a result of eight years of the Boko Haram insurgency, which has also affected Nigeria’s neighbors, including Niger, Cameroon and Chad.