Multiple explosions and sporadic gunshots started rocking the troubled city and environs at about 7.30 am when the terrorists reportedly invaded the town in an attempt to destroy the Giwa Military Barracks (Air Defence Unit) where the suspected Boko Haram members were being detained since 2009 when the uprising started in a bid to rescue them.
NIGERIA, Maiduguri : This photo shows razed homes in Mainok, outside Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, on March 6, 2014. At least 74 people were killed in attacks on March 1, 2014 in villages near Maiduguri, blamed on Boko Haram militants, taking the overall death toll this year beyond 300, with no apparent end in sight to the carnage. Gunmen dressed in military fatigues and armed with powerful assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives laid siege to the village of Mainok, killing 39. AFP PHOTO
It was however, gathered that a swift response from the military led to heavy fighting, during which scores of the insurgents died along with some few security operatives and civilians who also were killed in the crossfire.
Military sources told Saturday Vanguard in Maiduguri that several members of the sect who tried to escape into the town from the barracks were captured at Polo, Sulimanti, and other surrounding wards in Maiduguri metropolis, with the assistance of villagers and members of the vigilante youths popularly known as civilian JTF.
According to sources, no fewer than 207 suspected terrorists were killed while at least 50 others including some Arabs, Malians and Chadians were captured by troops, who also collected their weapons.
One of the vehicle used by the insurgents on Friday
In the nearby Adamawa State, some suspected terrorists were also arrested by troops in three Toyota Sports cars (with three different colours of red, white and blue respectively). The occupants of the Toyota cars who were arrested at the Belel border in Konkol near Cameroun claimed to have come from either Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d’ Voire.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has called for greater cooperation between Nigeria and neighbouring countries in the fight against terrorism.
Speaking at an audience with a Special Envoy of President Paul Biya of Cameroon, Mr. Emmanuel Sadi Rene who delivered a special message from the Cameroonian leader, President Jonathan said that Boko Haram and other criminal groups that operate in the countries’ border regions must be seen as a common threat to them all.
The President said that Nigeria and its neighbours must take urgent action to harmonise their strategies and efforts to roll-back the menace of Boko Haram and other violent criminal gangs that operate between their borders.
“The issue of Boko Haram remains worrisome. If it is not properly handled, it could affect the security of neighbouring countries. We therefore expect maximum cooperation from all countries within our region to route the sect,” President Jonathan told Mr. Rene who is Cameroon’s Minister of Interior.
Saturday Vanguard gathered at Polo Ward in Maiduguri, that about eight of the fleeing terrorists were captured by civilian JTF operatives who later handed them over to military operatives, just as six others were captured at the outskirts of Sulimanti by the NNPC Depot, and handed over to the security agencies.
Reliable sources said that the attackers came into Maiduguri from the Sambisa forest en-route Fori village on the outskirts of the town, and reportedly used several Toyota Hilux vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft gadgets, rocket propelled launchers, AK47 rifles and Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, to launch the attack with the aim of destroying the barracks after setting their members free.
However, the terrorists were said to have been repelled by troops from the 7 Division, Nigerian Army even as Nigerian Air Force, NAF fighter jets bombarded them from the air.
”The gunmen were able to destroy some structures at the military barracks using rocket propelled launchers as I saw smoke coming out from the barracks, but thank God that many of the terrorists were killed as I saw their corpses lying close to the Barracks which is also close to where I reside before I fled for fear of being caught up in the crossfire,” the source said.
Unconfirmed reports also said that three students of UNIMAD were hit by stray bullets, but it was not known whether the victims were wounded within or outside the school premises, as the university is also located close to the barracks. It was alleged that the university’s Education Trust Fund, ETF, Lecture Hall was destroyed during the mayhem.
Two explosions occurred in the university between 7.42 and 8.0am, leading to the destruction of the lecture hall. One of bombs exploded near the River Ngaddabul behind the 202 and 303 Housing Estates.
Residents of Maiduguri, including school children and traders were trapped in their schools or houses from 7.30am to 11.35am while the gun duel lasted.
Ammunition used the Boko Haram insurgents
The housing estates, according to Ba Modu Fannami, a resident, were some of the areas targeted by the insurgents for destruction.
”Thirty minutes, before the UNIMAID twin blasts, soldiers in their patrol vehicles took cover at the villages of Wadiya, Fori and Galtimari; and behind the housing estate; and clashed with gunmen, Fannami said.
Mallam Shehu Babakura also who reside near the ForI I village said, “sporadic exchanges of fire between soldiers with aerial support of two fighter jets from Yola and insurgents commenced by 7.35am in the area, and continued for over three hours. The fighter jets bombed insurgents’ escape routes, killing scores of them at the villages and on banks of River Ngaddabul by 9.45am.The number of freed insurgents cannot be ascertained, but they are many, but 75 per cent of them were arrested and handed over to soldiers for investigations. At the Water Treatment Plant, 303 Housing Estate, a total of 21 suspects were arrested, while another 19 were also arrested, while they were fleeing across the river that morning hours of attacks and fierce battle that lasted for over three hours.
”Some soldiers that engaged the insurgents while fleeing were also killed, but I cannot tell you the exact number of casualties on side of Military,” he said.
Another source said, “ the nine suspects arrested by Civilian JTF in Jidari Polo ward, were killed, after being identified that they are among the freed insurgents from detention at the barracks”.
Kaka Bomboy, a member of Civilian JTF that participated in the arrests and repulsion of insurgents said that all the arrested suspects were handed over to the military, adding that the insurgents converged at Fori village, after their repulsion, but that they were also bombed, killing scores of them.
He said most of the insurgents that attempted to attack the two Housing Estates, south and opposite the University college are foreigners from either Niger or Libya; adding that; “the four arrested and handed over to soldiers could neither speak English or Hausa. If you attempt asking for more information from these insurgents, they keep mute and continue to look into your eyes.”
Bomboy said: “The number of freed insurgents cannot be ascertained, but they are many, because 75 per cent of the freed suspects had been arrested and handed over to soldiers for investigations. At the 303 housing estate, a total of 40 suspects were arrested, while they were trying to cross the river in the morning hours.
”Some soldiers that engaged the freed insurgents while fleeing were also killed, but I cannot tell you the exact number of casualties on side of military,” he said.
Meanwhile, most Muslims could not perform their Friday Jumat prayers as the whole city was deserted with only security operatives and men of the vigilante youth seen patrolling the major streets checking motorists and pedestrians.
Mallam Usman Yaro Gujba said “Jumat prayers that hold around 2pm did not take place in his area as most of the roads and streets leading to the mosques were condoned off by military to prevent further attacks and killings.
Borno State Police Commissioner, Lawal Tanko denied any attacks on the university, insisting that the institution was not affected during the incident.
Tanko, however, said he was yet to get details on the number of casualties on both sides.
The incident which lasted for over three hours came under control when the NAF fighter jets that came from Yola, the Adamawa State capital joined in bombarding the terrorists, a situation that led to their dislodgement.
Also, commenting on the attacks yesterday in Maiduguri, the Spokesman of 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Col. Mohammed Dole said that military operations were still ongoing around the Housing Estates and UNIMAID campus among others.
Dole said that the Boko Haram suspects freed some insurgents at the barracks, adding that the soldiers with the aerial support of two fighter jets repelled the attackers, after fierce exchange of gun fire in some areas in Maiduguri metropolis.
He said a high number of insurgent were also killed, while others were in military custody undergoing interrogation.
He also said that items recovered in the terrorists included dozens of motorcycles abandoned at the Dolori Housing Estate, about two kilometres away from Fori village, where many of them were killed yesterday.
DEFENCE HEADQUARTERS REACT:
The Defence headquarters yesterday explained that the series of bombings and explosions heard in Maiduguri metropolis leading to panic and pandemonium among residents arose when soldiers foiled an attempt by Boko Haram terrorists to break into a military facility to free their detained members.
A statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade while giving an update on the situations said, “Pockets of terrorists apparently in a move to boost their depleted stock of fighters this morning attacked a military location in Maiduguri with a view to freeing their colleagues who are being held in detention.
“The attack has been successfully repelled with heavy human casualty on the terrorists. Some of the victims of the terrorists’ fire in their efforts to break into the detention facility, included those they came to rescuE.
“Many of the terrorists and their weapons have been captured. Four soldiers were wounded and are being treated. Hot pursuits by land and air operations are ongoing along with cordon and search of surrounding localities.
“No institution has been reported attacked, although the effect of firing from the encounter could be noticed in surrounding facilities in Maiduguri. It is believed that the terrorists’ attempt is in response to the intensity of attacks on their strongholds.
“These strongholds are the camps at Talala, Monguzum, Sambisa forests, Gwoza, Mandara mountains as well as the general area of Lake Chad.
“The camps have been destroyed and many insurgents killed”.