The Nigerian army on Saturday denied hiring mercenaries to fight Boko Haram militants, alleging an “orchestrated campaign” against it.

In a statement in response to an Anadolu Agency story published Thursday, the army denied claims from two military sources that it had hired 250 troops from South Africa-based Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment & Protection (STTEP).

Army spokesman Rabe Abubakar said the story was “aimed at rubbishing the efforts of the armed forces and other security agencies who are working hard to contain the insurgencies” and added the military had sufficient forces “without resorting to the use of mercenaries.”

Anadolu Agency was told of the three-month STTEP contract by a senior source at defense HQ whose claims were backed by a second military source.

The Nigerian army did not respond to a request for a comment in relation to the original story although President Muhammadu Buhari’s office denied the claims at the time.

The military is under pressure to crush the Boko Haram insurgency by a December deadline.

The hiring of mercenaries would prove highly embarrassing for Buhari, a former general who took office in May. In the past, he has referred to the use of private soldiers as “shameful”.

Both STTEP and the government have confirmed that Nigeria contracted mercenaries from the company last year to combat Boko Haram, who have killed at least 1,800 since Buhari came to power.

Military sources said the army’s denial of the current contract was “common and expected”.

According to STTEP’s official website, the company’s trainers and advisers are drawn from “conventional, clandestine, and covert units of the pre-1994 South African Defense Force”.

It claims to have a proven track record of success in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and Central and South America.

According to the HQ source, the company has been recruited as the Nigerian military is inexperienced in combatting Boko Haram’s tactics of hitting soft targets.

Anadolu Agency