Nigerian chief of army staff on Wednesday confirmed 39 were killed by recent Boko Haram attacks in the country's northeast.
Yusuf Buratai's remarks followed the calls of the local media -- which claimed over 100 soldiers had died -- for full disclosures on the incident.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Buratai said a total of 16 soldiers were killed and 12 others were injured when the troops came under heavy militant attacks between Nov. 2-17 in Kukawa, Ngoshe, Kareto and Gajiram -- all in the restive Borno state where Boko Haram has been ultra-active.
The army chief said Nigerian troops of the 157 Task Force battalion deployed for the regional Multinational Joint Task Force in Metele were also attacked on Nov. 18, leading to abrupt withdrawals and multiple deaths on their part.
“... 23 personnel were killed in action and 31 personnel were wounded in action and have been evacuated to several medical hospitals within Borno State,” according to the statement, refuting claims that over 100 soldiers had been killed in the Metele rout.
“The Nigerian Army commiserates with the MNJTF [Multinational Joint Task Force] at this difficult time and wishes to state that all necessary support will be rendered to the MNJTF to reverse this resurgence of the Boko Haram Terrorists.”
Buratai also confirmed for the first time that Boko Haram now uses drones to launch attacks against the troops.
He added: “Since 2015, the Nigerian Army in cooperation with sister services and other security agencies have systematically degraded the capabilities and capacity of Boko Haram terrorists and many successes were achieved.
"However, in the last two-three months, we have noticed daring moves by the terrorists, increased use of drones against our defensive positions and infusion of foreign fighters in their ranks. These potent threats require us to continually review our operations.
The recent attacks have provoked intense criticism of the military top brass and the ruling All Progressives Congress, with the parliament now set to probe defense spendings before and since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office.
Buhari is set to meet his counterparts from the Lake Chad region as part of his strategies to control the resurgence of the militants -- especially in northern Borno and areas close to Chad.