At least four persons, including two female suicide bombers and an operative of Civilian-JTF, were confirmed dead as Boko Haram suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Maiduguri, the Borno state capital on Thursday.
Both the police and the military confirmed the attack.
The invasion was the most daring in recent times as the gunmen made their way into the city at about 6pm, attacking an IDP camp in Judumri area, not far away from the Federal High Court complex.
Sources said the attackers came with a car loaded with explosives, which they rammed into the fence of the camp before it went off.
Witnesses also said soldiers at the Jiddari polo axis were overran by the attackers who inched well into the city before they were engaged by a combined force of police, soldiers and operatives of the Civilian-JTF.
Head of the Civilian-JTF in the attacked Jiddari area, Muhammed Babagoni, confirmed that some suicide bombers detonated their devices during the shootout that lasted for over an hour.
“One of the suicide bombers knocked the door of a house and when the occupant opened the door, the suicide bomber detonated the bomb killing the two of them,” Mr Babagoni said.
Barefooted women and children were seen running from all directions in the dark hours as the gunmen marched through their neighbourhood.
Some soldiers were also seen moving with the fleeing crowds, away from advancing attackers.
An air force jet later came to beef up the ground troops in repelling the attack.
Boko Haram usually attacks Maiduguri using suicide bombers. However, whenever the group wants to deploy a large number of suicide bombers, they usually come with gunmen who first create a distraction for the military while the suicide bombers sneak into the city to carry out the attacks.
Police spokesman, Edet Okon, a deputy superintendent, in a statement, confirmed that two of its personnel from the SARS unit sustained injuries while their Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), was also damaged during the attack.
His statement reads as follows:
“Yesterday being 26/04/18 at about 1700hrs, Boko Haram Terrorists launched a surprise attack at Jidari Polo area of Maiduguri near the Federal High court,” he said.
“The terrorists fired sporadically and detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“The Borno State Police Command promptly deployed combat teams of SARS, PMF and EOD to support the Military and the Divisional Police Officer of GRA division, who were already at the scene.
“The insurgents were successfully repelled by the security forces after a fierce gun battle, with profuse tear smoke application.
“There was no casualty on the side of the police apart from two SARS personnel that were injured in the battle. A police Amoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was also damaged by IED explosions.
“Seven other persons were severely injured. Four persons including a CJTF and 2 female suicide bombers were killed in crossfire and IED explosions. They victims and corpses have been evacuated to the state specialist hospital in Maiduguri. Normalcy has been restored in the area.
“The Commissioner of Police Borno State, CP Damian Chukwu therefore urges members of the public to go about their lawful activities without fear. He also urges residents of the state to always promptly report suspicious persons and activities to the Police or other security agencies for prompt action.
Meanwhile pre-emptive deployments are being put in place to forestall further surprises.”
The military, however, was economical with details concerning the attack. A statement issued by the theatre commander, Nicholas Rogers, a Major General, simply said the attack was repelled.
“Troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE have in the late hours of today, Thursday 26 April 2018, successfully repelled Boko Haram’s Terrorist incursion in the outskirts of Jidari Polo area of Maiduguri.
“Troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, with the support of the Air Task Force, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies including the Civilian Joint Task Force quickly mobilised to the area and cleared the terrorists incursion.
“The troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE are currently in pursuit of the Boko Haram Terrorists and have dominated the area while also patrolling the general area of Jiddari. Therefore, the general public and residents of the area that have earlier flee are enjoined to return to their residence. They are further encouraged to report any suspicious persons to security agencies currently patrolling the area.”
Some residents of the attacked Jiddari area said they have not been able to reunite with some of their family members after they fled their homes during the attack.
The civilian-JTF chieftain in the area, Mr Babagoni told journalists that “up till now, many of our people are missing, especially women and children who ran out of their homes during the attack. We just hope and pray they have not been taken away with the fleeing Boko Haram insurgents. But we will wait till later in the day before we begin to raise the alarm officially”.
Operatives of the Civilian-JTF have blamed the ease with which the Thursday attack was carried out by Boko Haram on their recent disarming by the military.
The youth vigilante group, who were once allowed to carry double barrel rifles, said they were recently disarmed and banned from using any type of firearm in the course of protecting the civil populace. They could not explain why they were stripped of the guns with which they have over the years, used to effectively combat Boko Haram.
“We don’t know why we were asked not to carry guns again, and now that the attack was brought to us, most of us were helplessly watching the attackers harming our people”, said one of the civilian-JTF operatives, who identified himself simply as Banga.