In heavy fighting with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters, the Nigerian army lost an Army general and three other soldiers in the northwest of the country, military sources said.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said Nigerian troops encountered and fought ISWAP fighters in Borno state’s Askira Uba local government area. He claimed that 89 jihadists were killed.

“Sadly, a gallant senior officer Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice … as they provided reinforcement in a counteroffensive against the terrorists,” Nwachukwu said in a statement.

“The family of the senior officer and soldiers have been contacted. The Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya deeply commiserates with the families and relations of the fallen heroes. He has also directed that the troops continue in the ferocious counteroffensive and hot pursuit to eliminate the remnant of the fleeing terrorists,” Nwachukwu added.

Dzarma Kennedy Zirkushu
Nigerian Army BG Dzarma Kennedy Zirkushu, who was killed in the fighting against ISWAP terrorists. (Nigerian Army)

The Nigerian army said that ISWAP fighters attacked Askira on Saturday morning with between 12 and 16 gun trucks. They quickly began burning houses, shops, and a school while forcing many civilians to flee. 

The Nigerian army quickly reinforced the town with troops from the 28th Task Force Brigade, Chibok. It also deployed five A17-Jets, two A-29 Tucano ground support aircraft, two Dragon combat vehicles, and nine Gun Trucks and APC. The Nigerian general was killed in an ambush en route to the town as the army troops were responding to the attack. 

One source with security forces told the local media that ISWAP fighters attacked several other small towns in reprisal after several of their commanders were killed in the fighting and airstrikes in Askira, Uba, Mulai, Ngamdu, and Buniyadi.

“The ISWAP terrorists, who invaded the Askira Uba town, destroyed telecommunication masts, forcing residents to flee,” the security source said on Saturday.

“Another group of terrorists attacked Mulai village, close to Maiduguri and stole cattle while another gang of fighters attacked a communication mast and health center in Buni Yadi, Yobe State and carted away a generator and drugs,” the source added.

ISWAP terrorists
ISWAP terrorists from a propaganda video produced by ISIS. (File photo)

Askira is about 93 miles south of Borno state capital Maiduguri. It lies along the outer edge of the Sambisa Forest, the operational base of both Boko Haram and ISWAP.

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) is a part of the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS). ISWAP is primarily active in the Chad Basin. It is fighting an insurgency against Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

ISWAP was originally part of Boko Haram but soon split away. Now, the two terrorist groups are consumed by violent rivalry.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau killed himself in battle with ISWAP in 2021 rather than being captured. After Shekau’s death, thousands of Boko Haram fighters surrendered to the Nigerian Army.

Last month the Nigerian Army announced it killed the new leader of ISWAP just two weeks after killing its former head Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

The conflict has left about 300,000 dead and millions dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.

Nigeria is home to nearly one in six Sub-Saharan Africans and to about 250 different ethnic groups. It is Africa’s biggest economy. Despite its size and economic power, its security is threatened by the terrorist insurgency, secessionist groups, bandits, and kidnappers.