Suspected Boko Haram militants ambushed a convoy carrying Nigeria’s chief of army staff on a tour of towns in troubled Borno state, the army said early on Sunday.
One Nigerian soldier died while 10 militants were killed and another five captured, Colonel Sani Usman said in a statement.
Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai was appointed in July as the new chief of army staff after President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the military’s top brass. The new chiefs are far more active in visiting areas under pressure in the northeast.
“The leading column was ambushed by suspected Boko Haram terrorists at Faljari village between Mafa and Dikwa,” Usman said.
Buhari has made quashing Boko Haram his priority since taking office. Boko Haram’s quick wins last year exposed the weakness of Nigeria’s military that has been badly managed for years.
Since his appointment, Buratai’s home town in Borno has also been attacked several times.
His convoy was ambushed as he was visiting the region, the heartland of Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency aimed at carving out an Islamist state.
The jihadi group killed thousands in 2014 as it took over vast swathes of Nigerian territory before being pushed out by combined Nigerian, Nigerien and Chadian troops earlier this year and with the help of foreign mercenaries.
Since losing the bulk of its territory, Boko Haram has reverted to its old tactics of hit-and-runs on villages and towns as well as attacks on “soft targets” like mosques, bus stations and markets often with suicide bombers.
The last stronghold of the group is in the vast Sambisa forest reserve that has become hard to penetrate due to the widespread use of landmines by the militant group.
The military has recently ramped up its offensive into the Sambisa and surrounding areas with air strikes and more ground troops. A multi-national joint taskforce being set up in Chad’s capital N’Djamena has not yet started operations.