Boko Haram gunmen fought running battles with Nigerian troops in the northeastern city of Damaturu on Friday, in an apparent reprisal attack for a raid of one of the militants’ strongholds, residents told AFP.
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed damaturu, capital of the north eastern state of Yobe at sundown, firing indiscriminately, but were intercepted by soldiers.
The clash with troops came nearly a week after Boko Haram fighters captured the strategic town of Baga and overran the headquarters of a multinational regional force in the north of neighbouring Borno state.
More than 150 people were killed on December 1 when Boko Haram launched a massive attack on Damaturu. Thirty-eight police officers were among the dead after their base in the Gujba Road area was targeted.
Boko Haram, which has seized dozens of towns and villages in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states in the last six months, is in control of territory south of Damaturu in and around the town of the Buni Yadi.
In the latest attack, troops disrupted the insurgents’ advance at Nyanya, on the outskirts of the city, near the state-run Yobe State University.
“The gunmen arrived around 7:30 pm (1830 GMT), firing guns and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ (God is greatest),” said student Mukhtar Sani.
“The Boko Haram gunmen are now locked in gun battle with soldiers not far from us.”
There was no immediate indication of casualties or confirmation from the authorities but residents from others parts of the city moved indoors as the crackle of gunfire and explosions was heard.
“All the streets are deserted. Everybody has moved indoors and all we hear are sounds of gunfire,” said Aishatu Bala, who lives on the nearby Obasajo housing estate.
Friday evening’s attack was in apparent reprisal for a raid on Tuesday by civilian vigilantes and local hunters on a Boko Haram enclave in Gujba, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Damaturu.
Several militants were killed and weapons seized, according to a security source in the city.
Hours after the raid, Boko Haram launched an offensive on Kadarko village, 20 kilometres away, slaughtering 25 people and abducting women before burning the entire village, according to local vigilante sources.