KANO, Nigeria (AFP) – Explosions and gunfire rocked the north Nigerian city of Damaturu on Monday, in a suspected Boko Haram attack that targeted police, residents told AFP.
The dawn raid came after a suicide bomb and gun attack on the central mosque in the northern city of Kano on Friday which bore all the hallmarks of the extremists and left at least 120 people dead.
The militants, who have been waging a five-year rebellion to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria, have conducted similar dawn raids and attacked Damaturu before.
Umar Sada, who lives in the Gujba Road area of the city, said the latest raid happened at about 4.45am.
“I was awoken by huge blasts and the sound of heavy gunfire around the mobile police barracks,” he said.
“The gunmen came in numbers. They have burnt down the police barracks. They are now advancing towards two housing estates.
“We have left our home. We are now in the bush. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Another local resident, a government official who asked not to be identified, said: “It’s chaos all over the town.
“All I can hear is explosions and gunfire from my house. I couldn’t go out for morning prayers because this started before dawn and I’m afraid to leave in case I get caught up in it.”
On June 18, at least 21 football fans were killed when a bomb exploded as they watched a World Cup finals match at a public viewing centre in Damaturu.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for an October 24, 2013 attack in the city, in which four police buildings were hit with guns and explosives and there was an hours-long battle with security forces.
Thirty people, all thought to be soldiers, were killed.
Yobe was one of three states worst-affected by the violence and was placed under a state of emergency in May 2013.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan last month requested an extension to the special powers but a deadline for its renewal has passed.
The measures were initially successful in forcing Boko Haram out of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, where the group was founded in 2002.
But violence has increased in rural areas and in recent months the group has seized more than two dozen towns in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states and declared some part of its caliphate.
Nigeria’s leading Muslim body the JNI on Sunday criticised the government for not ending the violence and claimed it was failing to protect civilians.
More than 13,000 people have been killed since the insurgency began in 2009.
Boko Haram was meanwhile blamed for a separate attack on the Borno town of Shani at about 8pm on Saturday. No one was killed but the fighters wreaked havoc, witnesses said.
Buba Umar, who left the town for Maiduguri, said the militants attacked the police station and were armed with assault rifles and petrol bombs.
Another resident, Manassa Samuel said, “While some of the terrorists stormed the palace, others destroyed all the churches in the town. They also destroyed many shops.
“Most of us fled to the bushes, leaving only women and children at home. The good news is nobody was killed,” he said.