B/Haram: DHQ de­nies re­port on mer­ce­nar­ies

...DHQ dis­misses re­port as un­true

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron­ald Mu­tum

Nige­ria is be­lieved to have hired mer­ce­nar­ies to com­bat Boko Haram, ac­cord­ing to se­nior mil­i­tary sources, as mil­i­tary chiefs face a De­cem­ber dead­line to crush the mil­i­tants, a Turk­ish news agency re­ported yes­ter­day.

This is even as Nige­ria’s Defence spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar dis­missed the re­port as un­true, say­ing it’s a cheap black mail and can­not de­tract the Nige­rian mil­i­tary from car­ry­ing out its ob­jec­tives be­fore the De­cem­ber dead­line.

Anadolu Agency re­ported that the mer­ce­nar­ies, es­ti­mated at around 250 per­son­nel hired from South Africa-based pri­vate con­trac­tor Spe­cial­ized Tasks, Train­ing, Equip­ment and Pro­tec­tion (STTEP).

It stated that they are be­ing de­ployed along with fighter jets in Op­er­a­tion Fire Force, a source at Nige­ria’s de­fense head­quar­ters said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“The mer­ce­nar­ies have been reen­gaged and their plat­forms are be­ing de­ployed,” the source said. “By plat­forms, I mean fighter jets, he­los [he­li­copters], coms [com­mu­ni­ca­tion], sur­veil­lance, medics, etc.”

STTEP in­cludes vet­er­ans from the South African apartheid era who will work with and train a Nige­rian strike force, ac­cord­ing to the source.

An­other army source con­firmed the de­vel­op­ment to Anadolu Agency. “There is def­i­nitely some­thing hap­pen­ing in that di­rec­tion,” the source said, again on con­di­tion of anonymity.

De­scrib­ing the use of mer­ce­nar­ies to fight mil­i­tants as “shame­ful” dur­ing the March 2015 elec­tion cam­paign, Nige­ria’s Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari con­demned the prac­tice.

Buhari, a re­tired gen­eral, said the prac­tice rep­re­sented the depth of weak­ness of the Nige­rian army.

Asked why the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion is again de­ploy­ing mer­ce­nar­ies, the de­fense HQ source said it ap­peared to be the most prac­ti­cal op­tion if head­way was to be made against mil­i­tants whose guerilla tac­tics are new to the Nige­rian mil­i­tary.

Nige­ria claimed sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess against the mil­i­tants in the run-up to the March elec­tion, with some an­a­lysts cred­it­ing the mer­ce­nar­ies.

Be­sides, Abubakar said the suc­cesses recorded by the mil­i­tary un­der its cur­rent lead­er­ship have been at­tested to by Nige­ri­ans.

“In re­cent times we have recorded tremen­dous suc­cess and we re­main fo­cus and do not need that kind of as­sis­tance,” he stated.

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