•  Shettima: No one can push us out of our town
  • 13 feared dead in Potiskum, Gombe bombings

Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri, Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and Segun Awofadeji in Gombe with agency report    

A second attack on Maiduguri by Boko Haram aimed at capturing the Borno State capital has left an estimated 82 people dead and scores injured, but was successfully repelled by Nigerian troops roughly 12 hours after fighting began for the city.

This is just as suicide bombings in neighbouring Potiskum, Yobe State, as well as in Gombe State, led to the death of 13 people on Sunday.

According to security sources who spoke anonymously to THISDAY on the Maiduguri invasion, not less than 72 insurgents were killed, while ten innocent civilians were felled during the attempted invasion of the city.

Giving a breakdown, security sources said 50 insurgents were killed in Dalwa, about 20 kilometers from Maiduguri where the battle was fiercest, while another 20 others were killed in other parts of the town where the terrorists also attempted gain entry into the city.

It was also gathered that though the number of soldiers lost to the attack might be more, two were confirmed killed, while five were seriously injured.

The latest attack on the town was said to have taken place at four major points of entry into Maiduguri:  Ngom, Dalwa, Molai and Jawuri.

A member of the youth vigilante group, Abba Ibrahim said: “The insurgents, in their customary manner, besieged the town just moments after the early morning Muslim prayers.

“They attacked the town from Ngom (the border with Mafa), Dalwa (the border with Konduga), Molai (the border with Damboa) and Jawuri (around Njimtilo, border with Kaga on the Damaturu road).”

According to him, the insurgents launched two rocket-propelled grenades into Gindari Polo area killing many civilians.

However, he added that the terrorists were successfully repelled by the military in conjunction with members of the youth vigilante.

Ibrahim said: “Some youths also came out in their numbers to push back the insurgents. We have killed many of them, some retreated back through the railway heading to Benesheikh and Goniri.”

But the estimated casualties fell far short of another account by one of the members of the youth vigilante group, Abba Modu, who was involved in the battle against the terrorist group.

He claimed that not less than 500 insurgents were killed at the points of entry into the town where the insurgents launched their attacks.

Also confirming the successful repulsion of Boko Haram insurgents from Maiduguri, Defence Headquarters spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, in a statement, said: “The terrorists’ attack on Maiduguri in the early hours of Sunday was quickly contained. The terrorists incurred massive casualties. The situation is calm as mopping up operation in the affected area is ongoing.”
He added: “The terrorists who in their disarray strayed towards Bama, Ngom, Alou, Delwa and Mafa in the night have now been effectively contained. Mopping up operation is ongoing.

“Several weapons, arms and ammunition including two armoured vehicles and two artillery guns as well as 17 Hilux vehicles have been captured from them. Several terrorists also died.”

The defence spokesman assured the public that the affected locations had been secured, while soldiers who had sustained injuries were being treated.
He added that patrols in pursuit of fleeing terrorists were ongoing in coordination with allied forces from Niger, Cameroun and Chad, which make up the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF).

“The ongoing operations is in coordination with activities in the Multinational Joint Task Force. The terrorists are meant to be engaged on all fronts including their previous safe havens and hide outs in the region.

“It is in line with the arrangement for a comprehensive and coordinated military operation with inputs by military forces in the Lake Chad Basin Commission namely: Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun,” he explained.

Losing control of Maiduguri would be an enormous defeat for the Nigerian security forces, whose handling of the six-year Islamist uprising has been fiercely criticised, reported AFP on Sunday.

The city’s fall would also likely spark a humanitarian disaster.

Maiduguri’s population is believed to have swelled above two million in recent weeks as residents from other parts of Borno have been forced to flee to the city to seek refuge from Boko Haram violence.

Resident, Fannami Dalwaye said people from the Mulai area ran towards the city-centre as the violence raged yesterday.
“Some of us are in mosques praying, just waiting to hear the outcome of what happens,” Krenuwa told AFP.

Shettima Hails Youth Volunteers

Commenting on the second invasion of his state capital, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima said that no one can push the people of Borno out of their land, as the government and people of the state will continue to fight for their lives and property.

This is just as he praised the courage of youth volunteers, who fought alongside regional troops to push back the terrorists from Maiduguri.

In a statement by his media aide, Malam Isa Gusau, the governor however warned that no one should take laws into their hands in the course of defending Borno or its state capital.

He said: “Borno is our land, we cannot and we must not allow anyone push us out of our land. I don’t call on citizens to take laws into their hands because that is unlawful but I encourage us to be registered and trained volunteers who offer support to armed forces in defense of all the communities and people of Borno.”

Shettima also saluted the gallantry of the Nigerian Armed Forces, “who from day one that Borno started having insurgency problems in 2009, stood by our dear state with a very strong commitment against all odds.

“Their sacrifices for Borno will never be in vain and will never be forgotten. We are indebted to them and we shall celebrate them in many ways.

“I urge citizens to be calm and go about their routines peacefully and in obedience to the laws of the country and Borno State.

“Our armed forces and youth volunteers have proved their worthiness and selflessness. We will, as a government, continue to afford them all they need within the limits of resources at our disposal.

“Reclaiming captured territories and safeguarding others that are free as well as safeguarding lives and property constitute our fundamental priorities as government”.

Shettima promised that his government would continue not only to uphold these priorities but to work tirelessly towards achieving them.

“At the risk of sounding repetitive, I want to reassure the good people of Borno State that we will never abdicate from our responsibility as those they entrusted with leadership.

“I condole with citizens who may have lost loved ones over today’s fresh attack and previous ones that were unfortunate; I commiserate with those injured and those who might have lost property.

“The situation in Borno is always in my mind, we will continue to work hard to change the situation for the better and to support all citizens that are affected,” the governor assured residents of the state.

13 Killed in Bomb Attacks in Potiskum, Gombe

However, as residents of Maiduguri struggled to come terms with the unending attacks on their city and the rising death toll, 13 persons were killed in separate bomb attacks in Potiskum and Gombe on Sunday.

In Potiskum, Yobe’s second largest city, eight people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated the explosives on his body.

Witnesses said the explosion occurred at 1.20 pm in front of the residential neighbourhood of Sabo Garbu located opposite Federal Government College, Potiskum.

Sabo Garbu is the stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate contesting for the Potiskum/Nangere federal constituency seat in the general election.

An eyewitness said the bomber came to the residence of the politician and detonated the explosive right in front of his home. He was said to have been hosting a lot of party supporters at the time of the explosion.
He said the bomb attack killed six persons on the spot with several others sustaining injuries.

Confirming the attack, the Yobe State Police Commissioner, Danladi Marcus, said eight persons were killed in the suicide bombing in the town.

In the case of Gombe, five persons were killed when suicide bombers attacked a timber market and military check point yesterday.

The first blast was blamed on a bomb attack at the Tsohuwar Kasuwa market that killed two people, according to one eyewitness, Muktar Abbani, but the cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.

Moments later, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up at a checkpoint in the Kasuwar Katako area, killing a soldier and two others, said another eyewitness, Musa Badamasi, and a military source in the area who requested anonymity.

AU to Send 7,500 Troops

But as Boko Haram steps up its attacks in North-eastern Nigeria, African leaders on Saturday agreed to send 7,500 troops to fight the insurgents, an African Union (AU) official said, as the international community, including long-time foes the US and Iran, rallied in support of Nigeria against the terrorists.

The move came after the council urged heads of state to endorse the deployment of troops from five West African countries to fight the terror group, said the head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, Samil Chergui.

African leaders who are members of the 54-nation African Union met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for a two-day summit that ended Saturday.
According to AP, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier said he supports the AU’s move to send a force to fight Boko Haram.

Iran also said Saturday it has begun consultations with West African countries affected by Boko Haram to provide help.

The country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said he is confident the group could be defeated with collective action.

“We will share our experiences in combating terrorism to defeat Boko Haram. We will achieve that without a doubt,” the official said on the sidelines of the AU summit.

The US on Friday also promised more technical support, training and equipment.
African nations have opened up a new international front in the war on terror. Neighbouring Chad has in recent days sent a warplane and troops that drove the extremists out of Malafatori in Borno State.

Chergui said Chad’s operation against Boko Haram was a result of a bilateral arrangement between the Chad and Cameroun.

“It is conducted as part of a bilateral agreement and arrangement between the two countries. The AU, however, will launch the force in the future,” he said.