A lieutenant colonel has become the most senior soldier to die in the war against Boko Haram, falling within days after the death of an army captain, as the Nigerian terrorist group increases narrowly targeted assaults in the Far North.
Belthus Kwene was killed yesterday when his vehicle exploded over a landmine. He was riding in a convoy with 11 other soldiers when they ran into the explosive near the border between Goshe and Kerawa, local media reported.
A caporal also died in the attack.
“He was one of our most brilliant commanding officers on the frontlines,” said journalist Fonka Mutta, who has extensively covered the war on Boka Haram for the state television, the CRTV.
“As a bilingual series graduate from UB, he was my favourite interviewee – perfectly bilingual and an exemplary patriot,” Muta said in a Facebook tribute.
Kwene was the south zone commander of Alpha Operation, the BIR troops at the forefront of the war against the Nigerian terrorist group, that has now affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).
He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel only on 31 December 2015.
It’s the second time a senior military official has died from a landmine in the Far North, where the army has been fighting Boko Haram since 2013. Captain Elvis M Mbene fell a year ago after a landmine exploded near Waza.
Boko Haram’s new tactics include the increased use of landmines and suicide bombs.
Days before he died, Kwene said in an interview with the VOA:
“They put explosives on the road. They know that when the car will pass on those explosives everything will be blown off. It is their new strategy that they use now.
“They know that those friends, those [Nigerian] army friends that will come to help us [that come to fight with us] will pass on those explosives and will be destroyed”