At a time many were still celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoying the Yuletide season with loved ones, apostles of death, suspected to be Boko Haram members, decided to attack Maiduguri, capital city of Borno State, Sunday night.
In what is seemed by many as attempt to counter the Federal Government statement that the sect has been defeated ‘technically’, the lthe invasion of the city especially coming few days after the announcement, is a sad reminder that the group potency is still a factor.
Though, the attack which commenced at about 6:00 p., was repelled by soldiers as they tried to enter Maiduguri via Aladuwari village, which is about 2 km from the Borno capital, witnesses and a security source said, unspecified number of people were killed.
About two hours later, while the gun battle raged, two suicide bombers believed to be females, detonated explosives near a FOMWAN primary school between Suleimanti and Jiddari area of Maiduguri.
Abubakar Muhammed, a vigilante official, said he saw corpses and injured person as he joined others to flee from the troubled neighbourhood which is close to Aladuwari.
“It was two women that detonated themselves near that FOMWAN school. Many people got killed and many others were injured.”
A source in the area, Umar Ibrahim, told journalists that as a result of the shoot-out, a rocket propelled launcher fell on a group of people near a borehole at Jiddari Polo area.
Also on Sunday, a lone suicide bomber reportedly caused the death of 15 members of a family, comprising three wives of a village head, their 10 children and two other persons.
Residents of the area said the woman who caused the death went running into the house of the village head in Bakasi layout of Maiduguri claiming she was being chased by Boko Haram. When the members of the household gathered to calm her down she detonated her explosives killing everyone close to her.
“They thought she needed help when she came in shouting ‘Boko Haram is after me, Boko Haram is after me.’ Before the family members could know her real mission it was too late”, a resident of the area, Muhammed Abbas, said.
However, the spokesperson of the Army’s Operation Lafiya Dole, Col Mustapha Anka, said the blasts heard were not suicide bombings but controlled explosions by anti-bomb operatives.
He denied that terrorists of the Boko Haram sect on Sunday battled for the control of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, with troops of the Nigerian Army.
Rather, the Nigerian Army said the heavy shooting heard on the outskirts of the state capital at Aladuwari village was that of the Nigerian Army eliminating suicide bombers.
A statement by Anka, said based on intelligence available to troops, suspected suicide bombers were waylaid at three entrances into Maiduguri.
Anka said the confession of an arrested suicide bomber provided the intelligence to the planned attack.
The statement, titled: “Troops intercept suicide bombers,” reads in full: “This evening, troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, intercepted and destroyed 10 suspected Boko Haram terrorists suicide bombers at the outskirts of Maiduguri city.
“Contrary to earlier media reports and rumours flying around, two Boko Haram terrorists suspected suicide bombers earlier intercepted by vigilant troops disclosed their colleagues intent to enter the city with the aim of detonating bombs in selected public places. Consequently, the troops laid ambush on the terrorists suspected routes along Damboa road and eliminated them. The suicide bombers were intercepted in three different locations approaching the city; Ajiri area towards Damboa road, High Court axis and the Eye Hospital Area.
“The Explosive Ordinance Device team have been mobilized and they are combing the general a area as well as clearing the debris. Normalcy has been restored to the general area and the public are please advised to go about their normal businesses and social activities. However, it is important to maintain more vigilance and security consciousness”