From Punch ;
Scores of civilians and security operatives were killed on Monday morning by suspected Boko Haram terrorists, who unleashed mayhem on military facilities and areas inhabited by civilians in Maiduguri, Borno State.The attacks by the insurgents, who rode into the troubled city in different vehicles, including an armoured personnel carrier, chanting Islamic slogans, were said to have lasted for about six hours before they were curtailed.The Director of Defence Information, Brig.–Gen. Chris Olukolade, in an electronic mail on Monday, said that 24 insurgents were killed in the attacks which also resulted in the wounding of two Nigerian Air Force personnel.
Although Olukolade was silent on the civilian casualty, a resident of the Gomari area, a few kilometres to the Maiduguri International Airport, said he saw five trucks conveying dead soldiers to a hospital in the city around 6am.
Two brothers, who had just ended their early morning Subhi prayer, were among the civilians killed by the insurgents.
Another military source said the city would have been overrun by the Boko Haram members if not for the deployment of alpha jets from Yola, Adamawa State.
• Jonathan meets NSA, CDS, service chiefs
The Monday incident made President Goodluck Jonathan to summon the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, and the service chiefs to an emergency meeting.
Schools in the troubled city were immediately closed as parents rushed to them to take their children home.
It also led to imposition of a 24-hour curfew on Maiduguri by the Borno State Government and the temporary closure of the airport in the city by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. All the roads leading to the town were shut.
Maiduguri streets were deserted while ambulances and security vans were seen conveying corpses to a teaching hospital from the attacked areas.
Immediately after news of the attack spread, heavy security presence was noticed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The PUNCH however gathered that Jonathan summoned the NSO, the CDS, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Alex Badeh ; and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika, to give him detailed information on the incident and how to restrategise to curtail Boko Haram’s activities.
No statement was issued after the closed-door meeting that took place just as the Borno State Government imposed a 24-hour curfew on the city.
Badeh under whose territory the attack occurred told State House correspondents in Abuja that only the CDS could talk on behalf of all the service chiefs.
When approached , Ibrahim simply said, “It (the situation) is being managed” as he briskly walked into his car.
• The affected areas and destroyed property
The insurgents burnt down the Bukumkutu Police Station and razed two vehicles parked on the premises.
They also destroyed 20 buildings and 30 vehicles in the 333 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army and torched aircraft parked in the 72 Composite Group of the Nigerian Air Force in the city.
At the Western end of the city, they set ablaze five filling stations , 20 petrol tankers and trucks. A trailer park was also attacked by them.
An uncounted number of cars were burnt in the area by the insurgents, who allegedly lost three of their colleagues there.
Residents of the Air-Force base said soldiers and policemen were however able to repel the insurgents.
“We saw several vehicles of the insurgents up in flames. Some had corpses of people burnt inside, while some were with slit throats,” one of them claimed.
Another security source had told one of our correspondents that the terrorists carried out the attack on the air force base by exploding multiple Improvised Explosive Devices.
According to the source, the IEDs were planted where the military aircraft were parked.
At Moduganari, Bulumkutu and Ngomari settlements, residents said both soldiers and the terrorists died in the confrontation.
“We saw military aircraft in the sky around 4am,” said Mukhtar Aliyu, a trader who went to Maiduguri Monday Market before the imposition of the curfew.
A resident of 777 Housing Estate told journalists that many other civilians had to flee to avoid being caught up in the attack.
The resident, who gave his name simply as AbdulRahman, said the insurgents overran the Artillery barracks and from there, they proceeded to other parts of the town.
• Shettima assesses destruction level
Governor Kashim Shettima, who almost shed tears while assessing the level of destruction, said no amount of threat by Boko Haram would make the people of the state to flee their homeland. He said the people had decided to either suppress the insurgents or be killed.
Shettima said, “This is our land and we are going nowhere. We are going to flourish or perish here.”
The governor, who was briefed by the state Commissioner of Police, Lawal Tanko, on the destruction of the Bulumkutu Police Station, added, “The good news to me is that no policeman lost his life. We are going to replace the lost vehicles.”
Shettima said though many things were destroyed by the sect members, he was also pleased that no death was recorded in the attack on the military facilities.
The governor’s enthusiasm was however dampened when his attention was drawn to the attack on a private residence where the sect members killed two brothers shortly after the 5.15am Muslim prayer.
A member of the family told the governor, “We were in our home at about 5.20am when some gunmen after calling people to prayer in the mosque just opposite came in and asked the head of the family to bring out the key of a pick-up parked in front of the house.
“He told them that his friend who parked the van left with the key. But they slaughtered him and went into the shop in front of the house where his brother was sleeping and equally slaughtered him.”
The governor almost shed tears when the surviving family members prepared the corpses for burial.
At the 33 Artillery Regiment where about 20 blocks and 30 vehicles were torched, the soldiers were said to have fled when they were overwhelmed by the superior fire power of the terrorists.
Journalists and some government officials who were in company with the governor on the visit to the 79 Composite Group of the NAF were turned back.
Some of the governor’s aides that were allowed into the base, came back with tales that it was almost totally destroyed by the insurgents who burnt down aircraft parked on the premises.
• Curfew in Maiduguri
The state government, in a statement by its secretary , Baba Ahmed Jidda, said the 24-hour curfew would be lifted as soon as the situation improved.
The statement reads in part, “The Borno State Government in consultation with the GOC 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maj.- General Obida Ethan, has decided to impose a 24-hour curfew on Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and its environs, starting from 11am today (Monday).
“The imposition of the curfew is necessitated by an attack on Maiduguri by people suspected to be Boko Haram members in the early hours of today (Monday).
“During the period of the curfew, Borno State Government pleads with all citizens to remain calm an law-abiding until the situation is put under control as the security agencies will do everything possible to preserve lives and property of the citizenry.
“Only vehicles on emergency call and essential services are allowed to move during the period.”
One of our correspondents learnt that passengers at the Maiduguri airport were asked to return to their homes.
Sources at FAAN and the Federal Ministry of Aviation, said although the Airforce base came under intense attack, “no passenger plane was burnt by the sect.”
The spokesperson for aviation parastatals under the ministry, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said, “There was no attack on the airport. We have closed down the airport and since the state is under state of emergency, the military has taken charge. The information available to me now states that there was no attack on the airport.”
Meanwhile, heavy security presence was seen at the NAIA , Abuja on Monday.
Before Monday’s incident in Maiduguri, the NAIA had witnessed intense security presence following rumours of possible attack by the Islamist sect.
On November 21, The PUNCH exclusively reported how hundreds of travellers and airport users were stuck in a gridlock caused by armed soldiers conducting a search on motorists at the toll-gate of the NAIA.
It was also gathered that security operatives were asked to be on the red alert, especially at the airports as the Yuletide approaches. This was in respect of the rush and increase in air travels during the season.