By Al Jazeera
Nigeria’s military has claimed to have retaken from Boko Haram the town of Baga, the scene of what is feared to have been the armed group’s worst atrocity of the six-year conflict.
“Troops have this afternoon captured #BAGA after fierce battle with terrorists. Heavy Casualties. Mopping up ongoing. Details later,” the military said on Saturday on its Twitter account @defenceinfoNG.
Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade claimed that “a large number of terrorists” drowned in Lake Chad as they tried to flee bombardment from air force jets.
Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, who is reporting from the Nigerian capital Abuja, said the military has confirmed the report.
“This is a significant moment, a symbolic victory,” she said. “But it is very difficult to know precisely how successuful the operation was.”
Al Jazeera could not independently confirm the government’s report.
Thousands of people had fled the town on the shores of Lake Chad in the far north of Borno state from January 3, when Boko Haram fighters attacked.
Hundreds of people, if not more, are feared to have been killed in the days that followed, while much of the town and 12 surrounding settlements were burnt to the ground.
The capture of Baga — and a military base used by a multi-national force in nearby Doron Baga — was seen as strategic for the armed group, giving them control of all three national borders of Borno State, including Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Earlier this week, Nigeria’s military also announced the recapture of Monguno, a garrison town 65km from Baga, after ground and air strikes.
Troops from Nigeria have been joined by soldiers from Niger, Chad and Cameroon in recent weeks in a sign of the growing recognition of the regional threat posed by the group.
Source:: Al Jazeera