Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nigerian troops backed by vigilantes repel Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri

Nigerian troops working with civilian Joint Task Force have contained an assault aimed at taking over Maiduguri, Borno state capital by Boko Haram, roughly after 12 hours of fierce fighting.

"The terrorists' attack on Maiduguri in the early hours of Sunday was quickly contained. The terrorists incurred massive casualty," Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a text message. "The situation is calm as mopping up operation in the affected area is ongoing."

Boko Haram insurgents on Sunday launched a fresh attempt to take over the strategically crucial northeastern city of Maiduguri, a brazen attack on a state capital just two weeks before national elections.

Four residents told AFP that Sunday's fighting began at roughly 3:00 am (0200 GMT) with loud explosions and gunfire, as the Islamists tried to enter the city from the south.

After heavy fighting in the Mulai area just three kilometres south of the city, troops backed by vigilantes repelled the attack, but the militants then began a separate assault to the east and gun battles were ongoing, multiple witnesses said.

"The gunmen were initially subdued in Mulai, but now they have changed strategy and are attacking through the Damboa road (to the east)," said local Bukar Mungono, in an account supported by two others. "Fighting is still going on."

"The whole city is in fear," said resident Adam Krenuwa. "People are afraid of what will happen if Boko Haram defeats the security forces."

Losing control of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, would be an enormous defeat for the security forces, whose handling of the six-year Islamist uprising has been fiercely criticised.

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

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