In one of the deadliest attacks against Nigeria’s military in recent times, twenty three soldiers were killed on Saturday, according to reports in the media.
A military source told AFP that 23 bodies had been accounted for, but more troops were missing. At least two bandits were injured in the skirmish, government sources told local media.
The troops were killed after being ambushed by “bandits” in a remote village in the northwest of the country.
On Saturday evening, militants opened fire on the soldiers who were on foot in a forested part of the Jibia district in Katsina state, the sources said.
The armed gangs have been involved in cattle rustling and kidnappings, but a number of experts have recently warned that they could be forging ties with extremist groups in the region.
One militia member said the toll could be more than 23, as the search for missing soldiers continues.
Also on Saturday in the same area, five children were killed and six others injured when a bomb accidentally exploded, a spokesman for Katsina State police said. Katsina police said that the victims played with the military grenade on farmland before it exploded on them.
It was not clear whether the two attacks were related.
However, the Nigerian Army said only three soldiers died during the incident, noting that 17 bandits were eliminated by the troops of Combat Team 1, Operation Sahel Sanity with the support of the Air Task Force.
The acting Director, Defence Media Operations, Brig. Gen. Benard Onyeuko, in a statement on Sunday, explained that five AK-47 rifles, three dane guns, two AK-47 rifle magazines, 152 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition and seven motorcycles were captured from the fleeing bandits.
It further disclosed that troops conducting fighting patrol along Faskari – Sheme – Dandume road in Katsina State, equally arrested five suspected bandits, including one female.