An explosion by bombs being ferried in a military vehicle yesterday killed 47 soldiers at Gorgi in Allargano Forest area, Borno State, the Defence Headquarters said on Tuesday.
The Defence Headquarter also said 15 soldiers were injured in the incident which was triggered by an ambush laid by Boko Haram insurgents.
It said the soldiers did not lose their lives “ in direct combat ’’ but by the blast that occurred when the truck laden with fuel and other logistics was shot at by the Boko Haram fighters.
There were reports earlier that the insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at military trucks as they travelled near Gorgi village, killing between 50 and 70 soldiers.
The Nation gathered that a commissioned officer was among the fallen troops drown from the 120 and 121 Batalions on Operation Lafiya Dole.
A military source said some of the victims were burnt beyond recognition as the terrorists targeted the troops’ Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL).
The source said: “BHT utilised their rocket propelled Grenades ( RPG) and other support weapons on the vehicles and inflicted heavy casualties on the troops, wiping out an entire Artillery troop.
“The full details of the casualties cannot be ascertained now but at least, 50 were killed in action. Details of the names of the KIA are not known yet as it was difficult to identify their corpses.
“But, I can tell you that the Artillery Major and the Sector 2, Air liaison officer, a flight Lieutenant with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF) were wounded and evacuated to Damaturu or Maiduguri,”
The Coordinator of Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, who gave details of the ambush, said many of the insurgents who escaped the explosion were neutralised.
Enenche said that the troops were providing logistics back up for the frontline troops when they were ambushed.
He explained that the truck that conveyed explosives was hit by terrorists’ fire, leading to explosion that affected other trucks conveying fuel.
“As a result, the troops suffered some casualties in the attack, leading to killing of 47 soldiers,” Enenche told reporters in Abuja.
He clarified that the soldiers were not killed in a gun battle with the terrorists.
According to him, if you clear a place and you don’t consolidate, there is a problem and so, we needed to go with reinforcement of artillery of the land component.
He said: “We are in a fluid conflict situation between March 23 to 24. We needed to go with extra ammunition and supplies.
“The echelon that was behind was the supply echelon carrying the fuel and weapons, and was targeted and fired the truck carrying the bomb and then there was explosion.
“The explosion in the real sense was what killed the majority of our troops, including the pockets that came to attack.
“That transferred to the other trucks carrying the fuel, which caught fire. As a result of that, we recorded 47 deaths after the mopping up.
“The Defence Headquarters commiserate with the families of our fallen gallant heroes who paid the supreme price in the course of defending our fatherland.
“We assure Nigerians that the Armed forces and other security agencies in furtherance of the objective of restoring peace and security in the Northeast and other parts of the country will continue to sustain the offensive against the enemies of our nation.”