YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram destroyed a Nigerian military base as soldiers fled and only self-defense fighters prevented the insurgents from retaking a northeastern town, residents said Monday.
The civilian fighters held Gulak town after soldiers ran away Sunday night until the military sent reinforcements who fought off the extremists, former council chairman James Ularamu told The Associated Press.
The military base was burned down, said Ularamu.
Sunday night's attack came as a military intelligence officer confirmed that 107 soldiers remain missing nearly two weeks after a Nov. 19 battle. The attackers drove off with an army T-72 tank and dozens of new camouflage uniforms, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the issue.
Nigeria's military has denied dozens of soldiers are missing.
Premium Times newspaper first reported the soldiers from the 157 Battalion, including their commanding officer, were missing in action along with the tank, three artillery guns and eight trucks including one carrying 60,000 rounds of ammunition.
The military has reported that it destroyed dozens of Boko Haram camps and freed more than 1,000 kidnap victims in recent weeks. But Boko Haram has stepped up the tempo and range of its attacks, with raids and suicide bombings in the past week in Niger, Cameroon and northern Nigeria.
Early Sunday the extremists kidnapped dozens of girls and set ablaze hundreds of buildings in Bam in Borno state, said resident Mallam Ali.
The setbacks come as Nigeria's government admitted it cannot crush by December the 6-year uprising that has killed some 20,000 people.
Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.
This story has been corrected to show that the battle in which dozens of soldiers went missing took place 11 days ago on Nov. 19 and not five days ago.