Don’t ask and I’ll tell you no lies.
By Staff Published: May 11, 2015, 5:52 am
With their roots in South Africa apartheid-era security forces, they do not fit the standard image of an army of liberation. But after just three months on the ground, a squad of grizzled, ageing white mercenaries have helped to end Boko Haram’s six-long year reign of terror in northern Nigeria.
Run by Colonel Eeben Barlow, a former commander in the South African Defence Force, the group of bush warfare experts were recruited in top secrecy in January to train an elite strike group within Nigeria’s disorganised, demoralised army.
Some of the guns-for-hire cut their teeth in South Africa’s border wars 30 years ago. But their formidable fighting skills – backed by their own helicopter pilots flying combat missions – have proved decisive in helping the military turn around its campaign against Boko Haram in its north-eastern strongholds.
The Islamists have now fled many of the towns they once controlled, leading to the freeing of hundreds of girls and women last week who were used by Boko Haram as slaves and bush wives.
The role of Col Barlow’s firm in turning around one of the most vicious African insurgencies of modern times has been kept largely quiet by Nigeria’s outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, who lost elections six weeks ago to ex-general Muhammadu Buhari.
But last week, Col Barlow discussed his company’s role in a seminar at the Royal Danish Defence College, and in a separate interview with a Sofrep.com, a special forces website, he described in detail the “aggressive” strike force that was created to push Boko Haram onto the back foot.
“The campaign gathered good momentum and wrested much of the initiative from the enemy,” said Col Barlow, 62. “It was not uncommon for the strike force to be met by thousands of cheering locals once the enemy had been driven from an area.”