Driven away from most of its strongholds Boko Haram is using underage suicide bombers to attack soft targets in northeastern parts of Nigeria authorities said.
“Boko Haram terrorists have been routed from their strongholds,” army spokesman Sani Usman told a press briefing in capital Abuja.
The Nigerian military – backed by Nigerien and Chadian troops – recently liberated all territory captured earlier by Boko Haram in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
Usman attributed the army’s recent successes to the training and deployment of elite forces to Nigeria’s restive northern region to join the fight against the notorious militant sect.
“It is heartwarming to note that within the last month, 481 personnel of the armed forces’ Special Forces – which comprises personnel of the army, navy, air force and police – have completed their training and inducted into the theater of operations within 7 division area of responsibility,” he said.
“Recent achievements recorded in the northeast can be attributed to the exploits of this elite force,” the spokesman added.
Usman said some officers were being trained on how to handle improvised explosive devices, which Boko Haram insurgents have repeatedly used in deadly attacks carried out across the region.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, meanwhile, has criticized the country’s use of South African mercenaries to fight Boko Haram in the restive northeast.
“The Nigerian army… had to bring in South African mercenaries to enable them to make the recent gains in the northeast,” he said late Monday at a meeting in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State.
“Recent gains in the northeast were because South African mercenaries were used,” added Buhari, a former military ruler and retired general.
In the past, the Nigerian army had denied using mercenaries to fight Boko Haram.
Usman, the army spokesman, for his part, urged Nigerians to remain vigilant after the militants shifted to attacking soft targets.
“They have now resorted to using underage children as couriers and suicide bombers,” Usman said.
“This calls for more security consciousness and vigilance among Nigerians,” he added.
At least nine people were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a village in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa State.