Boko Haram Used Helicopter To Drop Supplies For Its Members Around Giwa Barrack In Maiduguri
The recent attack on the 21 Armoured Brigade, Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri has been linked to the ability of the Boko Haram sect to supply its members who are stationed around hills close to the Giwa Barrack with food and ammunition.
According to a report by Thisday..
Security sources have alleged that helicopters hovered around the 21 Armoured Brigade, Giwa Barracks months before the recent daring pre-dawn attack by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram.
The attack, which was in a bid to free their detained members, had resulted in the killing of over 350 insurgents by the Nigerian military.
The helicopters, THISDAY gathered, were usually seen hovering in the dead of night dropping food items for the sect’s members in various hidden locations of the state of emergency zones before returning to their forest enclaves.
But the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday debunked claims that terrorists and insurgents now ferry in arms and ammunition through helicopters instead of using their usual route of land and sometimes, water transportation.
In a telephone conversation with THISDAY, the Director of Public Relations Information (DOPRI), Commodore Yusuf Anas, debunked the claims, noting that the service has continually protected the nation’s airspace as it has been charged with.
He said, “I don’t know where you got such information but it is not true. But if you really want to find out, contact the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), because they are the ones in charge of all the flights that either come in or fly out.
“Even as the Air Force, we still report our flight schedules to NAMA because they are the ones solely charged with taking note of all flights whether local or international.”
An incident, which was particularly cited by sources forces, had allegedly occurred sometime in December last year. This was after the devastating attack at the 79 Composite Group, Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Base in Maiduguri.
It would be recalled that three decommissioned military aircraft as well as two helicopters were incapacitated in the course of the attack. The suspected Boko Haram helicopters were reported to have taken advantage of the turmoil to ferry round weapons, food and personnel.
Recently, there was a report quoting some lawmakers to have said that bandits and insurgents operating in parts of the North were being ferried in by helicopters along with their weapons possibly from foreign lands to launch attacks.
One of the legislators, who raised the alarm, was Senator Abu Ibrahim from Katsina. He corroborated the allegation that some of the terrorists, who had savagely been killing people in several parts of the North, were not local people but were parachuted from somewhere else along with their supplies.
According to Ibrahim, there were reports from local people that the killers got supplies from helicopters, which the locals said they saw landing in thick forests.
The allegation was said to have come up following a debate on the motion moved by Senator Barnabas Gemade from Benue State over the spate of deadly violence in parts of the North.
According to the lawmakers, the incessant killings by Boko Haram insurgents and by other elements have reached an alarming proportion, suggesting that there may be some hidden hands sponsoring the violence for some ulterior motives.
They adopted Gemade’s motion, and directed the committees on Security and Intelligence, Defence and Army, Police Affairs and Interior to undertake a fact-finding mission and report back as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, while responding to THISDAY enquiries, said that the military authorities were investigating the allegations.
Olukolade, however, refused to disclose further the extent of their findings for operational reasons. Replying to a text message sent to his number, Olukolade, said the extent of the efforts by the military to tackle this cannot be subject of public discourse for security reasons.
He said, “The relevant security and intelligence network in the country are already working on this and related information. Please understand that the extent of the effort cannot be subject of news or public discourse for now.”
On the radar coverage of the conflict ridden Northeastern zone, the Defence Headquarters directed all enquiries to the Federal Aviation Authorities.
However, a top security analyst has also cautioned that the story might be the ploy of the opposition politicians and their military moles and conspirators to make mockery of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, the possibility of Boko Haram insurgents using helicopter to bring armament to the country’s Cameroon border have been confirmed by experts. This is despite total radar coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) monitoring the nation’s airspace.
A seasoned helicopter pilot and airline operator, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday on condition of anonymity, said that a competent helicopter pilot could evade the radar and operate into the remote areas of the border to drop weapons as alleged by Senator Abu Ibrahim from Katsina.
The pilot said, “A good pilot can always avoid and evade the radar because the radar works by the line of sight; if you fly below the line of sight you will avoid being picked by the radar. Besides, it is difficult to monitor the radar and also interpret the images seen. So it is difficult to monitor the radar 24 hours and how many of those monitoring the radar are well trained to interpret what they have seen?”
The pilot, however, said that he doubted the credibility of the story that helicopter was being used to bring down supplies to the insurgents, not because it is not possible, but what the implication might be if Cameroon could allow this to happened. “This is because no Nigerian registered helicopter can do that.”
But a senior engineer with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) admitted that helicopter could carry out such operation, “but it is not professionally possible.”
The source said that it would be difficult to operate helicopter illegally around the Nigeria/Cameroon border without being detected because Nigeria has primary radar in addition to secondary surveillance radar, explaining that primary radar reflects every metal object in the airspace, so even if the transponder of the helicopter is switched off, the primary radar would still reflect its presence in the airspace.
But many are of the view that the radar may not be effective at the Nigeria’s border at the far northeast and that was what prompted NAMA to install some sophisticated air navigation equipment at the Maiduguri airport after it was invaded by Boko Haram insurgents, who bombed the TRACON installation there last December.
Former NAMA Managing Director, Nnamdi Udoh, said the insecurity in the area had prompted government to introduce a new air navigation technology called wide area augmentation and automatic data surveillance broadcast installed around the airport to boost security.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Command said it had intensified operations to mop up all the illegal arms in the state, while tightening its borders to curb the influx of smuggling in new weapons.
The state Commissioner of Police, Tunde Ogunsakin, who made this disclosure yesterday in Lagos in an interview with THISDAY, said the command also arrested an alleged supplier of explosives to insurgents in the North-east.
He said cache of weaponry including explosives, arms and ammunition, military and assault weapons, rifles and Ak47, were recovered in different raids across the state.
He said, “There is proliferation of arms in very wrong hands in the state. When I got there, I looked at the security situation and I looked at ways and means to address.
“Last week, during one of our patrol activities, we found some explosives in the boot of a car belonging to an alleged kidnapper and armed robber but with connection to the explosives, we are handling the case sensitively.
“We don’t want to label him a Boko Haram suspect but we are not ruling that out. We are still investigating because we don’t want to be deceived by his claims that he is just an armed robber and kidnapper.
“This is because when we arrested and interrogated him, he said he was on his way to Yobe to supply the explosives to his customers.”
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