Troops have been mandated to ensure that Boko Haram leader Imam Abubakar Shekau is captured alive.Ground troops are expected to advance on Sambisa and Gwoza any moment from now, it was learnt yesterday.
Top on the agenda of the military are the rescue of the Chibok girls and the capturing of Shekau.
While the manhunt for Shekau begins, the military are said to have reclaimed five key towns in Borno.
The towns are: Baga, Monguno, Marte, Gamboru Ngala, and Dikwa.
The military claimed that Shekau was killed in encounters with troops in September 2014 in Konduga. But Shekau later emerged,
saying: “Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath.”
It was learnt that following persistent appearance of ‘Shekau’, the military decided to take advantage of the ongoing successful operations in the Northeast to launch a manhunt for him.
A top military source said: “Troops have been put on red alert for any insurgents’ leader bearing the name of Imam Abubakar Shekau, who is believed to be desperately looking for escape routes.
”Troops have been urged to at all costs to capture Shekau alive so that he can face justice.
”On at least two occasions now, troops have killed characters calling themselves Abubakar Shekau in videos but the insurgents manage to find other individuals looking like him and pretend that he was still alive.
”The order to catch Shekau alive is therefore to ensure that it will no longer be possible to resort to the same trick.
“The rumour about Shekau’s invincibility is one of the factors that troops are afraid to confront the terrorists.”
The defunct Joint Task Force (JTF) had on November 23, 2012 placed a ransom on 19 leaders of Boko Haram.
The list comprised five members of the Shurra Committee (the highest policy making body of the sect) and 14 Boko Haram commanders.
But one of the Shurra Committee members, Mohammed Zangina(a.k.a Mallam Abdullahi/Alh. Musa), with a N25million ransom, was allegedly killed in a shoot-out with the Joint Task Force(JTF) in Maiduguri.
With Zangina out, four members of the Shurra Committee, including Imam Abubakar Shekau (N50million); Habibu Yusuf (a.k.a Asalafi) N25million; Khalid Albarnawai ( N25million); and Momodu Bama (N25 million) are still wanted.
The fate of Momodu Bama was also unknown as at press time following conflicting reports on whether he is alive or dead.
The Boko Haram Commanders being sought for by the JTF are: Abu Saad (N10million); Abba Kaka (N10million); Abdulmalik Bama (N10million) Umar Fulata(N10million); Alhaji Mustapha (Massa) Ibrahim (N10million); Abubakar Suleiman-Habu (a.k.a Khalid) N10million; Hassan Jazair N10million; Ali Jalingo (N10million); Alhaji Musa Modu (N10million); Bashir Aketa (N10million); Abba Goroma (N10million); Ibrahim Bashir (N10million); Abubakar Zakariya (N10million); and Tukur Ahmed Mohammed (N10million).
The military is said to have reclaimed five key towns from Boko Haram insurgents.
These are Baga, Monguno, Marte, Gamboru Ngala and Dikwa.
Another military source added: “Within a week of the massive operation, the troops have recovered Monguno, Marte, Gamboru Ngala, Dikwa among other big towns and several surrounding communities in Borno State.
”With acquisition of new equipment from various sources and the specialised training of the troops on guerrilla warfare, the military indirectly called the bluff of some deceptive western countries who are now trying to save face by claiming to work with our neighbours.
”The effective collaboration and mutual relationship with our neighbours is paying off as they now realise that inaction can pose disasters to their countries too.”
An intelligence source gave insights into the factors behind the recent breakthrough of the troops.
The source said: “Troops’ morale has been greatly boosted in recent times by arrival of sophisticated armaments and the decision of senior military officers to lead the war against terror directly which also influenced the change of some commanders.
”Some of the successes recorded in recovery of big towns in the Northeast were due to deployment of new strategies, improved disciplinary measures, and sincerity of participating countries in the regional alliance and the acquisitions of latest equipment.
”In the past, colonels have led direct attacks in accordance with military tradition, but because of the large scale desertions recorded, Generals then decided to directly lead the war and this has greatly boosted morale.
”Many of the troops that earlier deserted have returned while others have expressed desire to return to the front.”