By YAHAYA ISAH
ABUJA- The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) has eliminated a terrorists leader, Alhaji Shanono, and 17 of his foot soldiers in Kaduna State.
The Director, Public Relations and Information, NAF Headquarters,, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, made this known in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said that the terrorists were eliminated following sustained air operations in the North West.
According to him, no less than 26 kidnapped victims earlier held by the insurgents were released as a result of the air strikes.
He added that the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, had commended troops for the sustained air strike against terrorists operating in the zone.
“One of such strikes which occurred on Aug. 9, resulted in the elimination of a well known terrorist leader operating in Kaduna State.
“Indeed, following receipt of intelligence on same day, that a well known insurgents kingpin, Alhaji Shanono, had scheduled a meeting with his foot soldiers at Ukambo, a village about 131 km from Kaduna.
“The Air Component of operation `Whirl Punch` dispatched aircraft for interdiction mission at the location.
“Overhead the location, insurgents were sighted under clusters of trees at the foot of Ukambo high ground and after ensuring the absence of civilian settlements within the location, the crew received the authorisation to strike.
“Feedback from local sources disclosed that over 30 rifles and 20 motorbikes were destroyed while about 18 insurgents, including Alhaji Shanono, were neutralised while others sustained various degree of injuries.
“However, sources also revealed that not less than 26 kidnapped victims earlier held by the insurgents were released as a result of the airstrike,” he added.
Gabkwet said that the CAS had reviewed the ongoing air operations against the insurgents and other criminal elements in the country.
“From the briefings received by the CAS, it is evident that so far, the directive given to the operational commanders is yielding the requisite outcome,“ he said.
The Director said Amao had addressed the commanders and reminded them of the need to remain steadfast and focused on the task ahead.
`’We can’t afford to let down our guards,” the CAS told the commanders.
Meanwhile, the Air Component of Operation Hadin Kai in the North-East had conducted successful air interdiction missions on insurgents’ targets in Borno.
“One of such operations was conducted on Aug. 6 at Gazuwa, about 1.2 kilometers to Gargash, after intelligences revealed that infighting for supremacy was underway between Shekau`s faction and Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) faction.
“The state of confusion and disorder between the two factions presented an opportunity for a surprise strike by NAF pilots which was carried out using two aircraft types.
“It should be noted that though the map coordinates led the pilots to the exact site of the infighting, the location also had an ISWAP flag hoisted on the structure and three solar panels on the rooftop.
“Intelligence received and corroborated by local sources revealed the strike was a success as the insurgents did not anticipate it with several eliminated and others injured.“
According to the director, the sustained air strikes have disorganised the insurgents who had begun to realise that they were fighting a lost cause that would lead to their death.
“Most are said to be contemplating surrendering just like others before them,“ he said. (NAN)