Ambush At Dawn
by Henry Okelue
I was down to my last magazine. This firefight had lasted for 2 whole hours as dawn began to crack. We had taken casualties, heavy casualties. They had all fought beside me like truly valiant men of the Army. I looked at my heavily strapped left arm which had 2 bullets lodged somewhere in there. I also had bullets in my legs, but I did not know how many. The body armor had done its job. I had bled a lot but the fight in me had not sipped out one drop.
My name is Sergeant Yakubu Alobamchukwu. I led a squad of 13 men that morning. We were from the 11 Division of the Army, and here is what happened.
I was returning from routine night patrol with my men around Kudun Dawadawa area in the insurgent strong hold of Dayabiyu when suddenly out of the breaking dawn we came under heavy fire. The type of weapons these guys were hitting us with did not sound like any either me or my men knew existed.
“Man down! Man down! Akeem has been hit” screamed one of the men as the initial barrage came upon us
“Take cover and return fire!” I commanded
The men began jumping down from the Hilux truck I was riding in and scrambled into the shrubbery. The men in the truck behind weren’t so lucky. RPG fire tore the truck to shreds. My heart sank, those were six good men that have just been KIA without even getting the chance to fire a bullet. But military training does not allow any moment of grief in the middle of battle. The rest of us must fight our way out of this ambush.
We started shooting back before our bodies even hit the red soil. We weren’t sure where exactly the enemy bullets were coming from at that moment, but we had to return fire to give ourselves a chance at taking cover.
“Dudududududududududu” rang out the sound of machine gun fire as bullets traced the ground in front of us. I looked to my left and saw that another of my men had been hit and was bleeding heavily. I could see Private Ubong, our medic crawling towards him under a hail of bullets.
I looked at my watch, it was 0442 hrs. I had to take very quick decisions if I was not going to lose more men this morning. The gunfire was coming from everywhere. It dawned on me that we were surrounded. I had no idea how many the enemies were, but from the gunshots it was obvious we were outnumbered. We needed backup fast.
I crawled over to Corporal Abubakar, who was our comms man. He had to get on the radio and request Div HQ for backup. When I got to him, he was lying face down with blood gushing from the back of his head. He was stone dead.
“Shit!” I swore under my breathe.
I forced the radio pack off his back and began to radio the base.
“Alpha 1, Alpha 1, this is Scorpion tail, do you read me” I barked into the radio
“Chakachakachakapiooopiooo” as static came back out at me
“Alpha 1, Alpha 1, this is scorpion tail, do you read me, over!” I tried again
“ChakachakaScoprion Tailchakakachakapioooo Alpha 1 copichakachaka” The reception was bad, but I had to try again
“Alpha 1, Alpha 1, this is scorpion tail, do you read me, we are under heavy enemy fire, backup requested, over!’
“Chakachakachakapiooopiooo” static again. Damn! Radio was useless. We will not be able to reach the base. We had to fight our way out of this.
I felt through my pouch, I had 4 magazines and 4 grenades. I was a trained soldier and I will not yield an inch of ground to these criminals. Just then a bullet tore through my left arm. The pain was searing, but adrenalin had taken over. The bullet swelled the anger in me and I got up, swung my rifle as I caught in the corner of my eye a slender figure dressed in tattered military fatigues running towards me with an RPG. I released a hail of bullets that tore through his head and shoulder. He screamed as the impact of my salvo threw him back in the direction he came from. Almost immediately five men with AK-47s appeared right behind him guns blazing. Two of my men reacted with a volley that cut the advancing enemies down even before they could take proper aim. Two more short bursts and four more insurgents went down.
“Enemy vehicles approaching at 3 O’Clock” announced Lance Corporal O. Chukwuemeka, one of the most experienced marksmen I have had the honour of fighting beside. I still remember his exploits in Liberia, Sudan and Mali. Some stories even have it that he single handedly, with just one magazine, took down a whole platoon of rebels in Mali. He was that good.
“Take them out with grenades” I commanded. In that instant, 4 grenades were lobbed in the direction of the approaching vehicles painted in Army colours. Two enemy pickups loaded with criminals ran into each other at the impact of the grenades. Shrapnel did major damage. The insurgents suffered at least fourteen casualties from that.
Heavy enemy machine gunfire followed from two trucks. Bullets from the guns ripped through our defensive positions and Olakunle, the youngest of my men was hit. He was only 19 years old. The machine guns had pinned us down and if I did not do something we were all going to die where we lay. We had to neutralize those guns.
“Chukwuemeka, cover me, I need to get close to those trucks”
He did not waste a moment extra, he gave a sign to the men beside him and under fire, rose and engaged rapidly. There was no further time to waste. I raced towards the back in a direction that would get me close to the machine gun trucks.
In no time, the insurgents spotted me and responded with RPG fire. I managed to evade their attack and opened fire on the first truck. The man behind the machine gun, with his face covered, did not know what hit him. My bullets threw him into the bush. Before the driver could react, I fed him some bullets too. My hand was already removing the pin from a grenade as the insurgent on the second machine gun turned his gun at me. I lobbed my grenade and drove into the ground as bullets from his machine gun whizzed over my head. My swiveling lob hit bulls eye as the explosion from the grenade killed both the gunner and his driver and also took out about ten of the fighters who were engulfed in the explosion that followed after the truck fuel tank exploded.
That was the end of machine gun fire from the enemy, but the AK 47 rounds were still coming, but now more subdued and becoming rather distant . Seemed as if my taking out of the machine guns had taken the fight out of the terrorists.
I could still hear our weapons firing from the other side. Somehow we had managed to hold our own against an ambush that had at least 50 men.
“Hold your fire! Hold your fire!” I barked at my men and our guns went quiet. The only sounds that could now be heard were those of crickets, singing birds and the engines of vehicles scrambling away in the distance. We dug in a while longer and waited to make sure it was safe.
As the first rays of sunlight hit the ground, four of us cautiously emerged from the position we had held and fought from. Our guns were still at the ready, the fight was still in us, Ahua! That morning we had lost eight men and one seriously injured. Brave men who gave their blood for their fatherland. We shall honour them by winning this war. We have signed up to protect this land, and we will not cede an inch of it to terrorists!