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Nigerian army silent as families seek news of the missing

The soldier’s father remembers the exact day when he spoke to his son for the last time. It was August 26. He hasn’t heard from him since.

He’s not alone: dozens of other soldiers stationed in northeast Nigeria, in the heart of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency, have also disappeared — but the army is saying nothing.

“After two weeks, I had not heard from him on the phone. I was so, so worried, I thought there is a problem,” the soldier’s father told AFP.

The army has since said his eldest son was a victim of an attack by the jihadist group but did not know whether he had been killed or kidnapped.

Military brass did not reveal where the fighting had taken place nor whether the victims had been identified.

“The last time he called me he was using a SIM card from Niger, so I think he was very close to Niger to use the network from there,” the man said on condition of anonymity.

The man’s son was most likely killed on August 30 in Zari, in the far north of Borno state, in an attack by fighters loyal to an Islamic State-backed Boko Haram faction.

That day saw the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) kill at least 48 soldiers in a bloody attack near the border with Niger, according to AFP reporting.

The Nigerian army denied the attack days later.

“On our side, I’m yet to receive casualty figures on my desk, if there was any,” said Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, a Nigerian army spokesman.