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Boko Haram attacks barracks in Borno, suffers casualty

Suspected Boko Haram fighters yesterday launched a daring attack on the 21 Armoured Brigade’s Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri but reportedly suffered serious casualty after meeting…

Suspected Boko Haram fighters yesterday launched a daring attack on the 21 Armoured Brigade’s Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri but reportedly suffered serious casualty after meeting fierce resistance from troops. Though military and police authorities are yet to give the actual number of casualties, some top security sources confided in our reporter that troops have recorded an unprecedented success. “The death toll on the side of the insurgents will rise to 500 because the operation is ongoing. Over 80 vehicles belonging to them have been captured in various locations,” one of the sources said.
The attack, which started around 7:00am, took many residents by surprise, partly because they had a smooth night and were preparing for the day. It all began with four simultaneous bomb blasts not far from the army barracks, which residents said were detonated by the insurgents. This was followed by sustained gunshots and thereafter sounds of heavy shots from Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) that lasted till around 9:00am.
Then fighter jets arrived, a development that gave the confrontation a new twist and emboldened the troops. Irked by the bold onslaught, over thousands of youth in Maiduguri took over the street and headed towards Giwa Barracks to lend a helping hand to soldiers who were already engaging the attackers. The youth blocked exit points and captured scores of fleeing Boko Haram fighters.
Giwa Barracks is the stronghold of the recently established 7 Division of the Nigerian Army.
Malam Abdullahi, who is one the leaders of the vigilantes, said his members had captured many suspects in various locations. “Many of them were dressed in camouflage uniforms, but we easily recognized them. We counted 207 dead bodies of terrorists in the locations I mentioned,” he said.
A statement from Defence Headquarters in Abuja yesterday said security forces repelled an attack by pockets of terrorist attempting to free their colleagues at a military barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state. “The attack has been successfully repelled with heavy human casualty on the terrorists.  Some of the victims of the terrorists’ fire in their efforts to break into the detention facility, included those they came to rescue,” General Olukolade said. He added that many of the terrorists and their weapons have been captured.  Four soldiers were wounded and are being treated.  Hot pursuits by land and air operations are ongoing along with cordon and search of surrounding localities.
The daylight attack is probably the most audacious move by the insurgents, as most of their recent attacks on villages and towns were at night, making action by security operatives and residents increasingly difficult.
Security sources and people who live close to Giwa Barracks said the insurgents, in hundreds, had actually entered the heavily fortified facility, broke cells and directed  hundreds of their members in captivity to flee. It was learnt that the insurgents besieged the barracks from the rear perimeter fence, after parking their vehicles far from the state capital.
Residents were afraid, thinking the entire town would be taken over by the insurgents. Smoke billowed and gunshots and small explosions could be heard up till 10:30am.
Another source told Weekly Trust that the prompt intervention by two fighter jets that dropped explosives on the insurgents helped the situation. “They actually wanted to overrun the barracks, take over the government house even if it is for an hour and then beat the drum of success even if they were all killed inside,” the source added.
How the attack began
Residents said after getting access to Maiduguri around 7am, some of the assailants first attacked Fouri, a settlement near the army base, apparently to divide the attention of troops. They succeeded in killing some civilians and burned private residential buildings in the area.
The blasts around Fouri and the Giwa Barracks steered tension at the nearby University of Maiduguri, forcing most lecturers to flee with their families even as students ran. Some students said two stray rocket-propelled grenades landed in the university but did not destroy anything, prompting earlier reports that the university was attacked.
Sources at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) said many corpses had been deposited there. “We don’t know whether they are Boko Haram or civilians. Some people are also here receiving treatment from the gunshot injuries they sustained,” a source at the hospital said. Weekly Trust, at the Borno State Specialist Hospital, counted over sixty dead bodies dumped around the mortuary.
When Weekly Trust visited the barracks around 1:30pm yesterday, many corpses of the insurgents were also seen in front of the main gate. Findings by our reporters also reveal that residents have turned over dozens of suspects, many of whom returned to their homes and arrested by angry youths.
Meanwhile, the Borno State government yesterday declared a 17-hour curfew on the state capital in order to restore normalcy and keep the metropolis safe. The order will last between 2pm and 7am, according to a statement. “Only people on essential services such as security operatives, fire service and journalists are allowed to move,” it said.
Weekly Trust learnt that Governor Kashim Shettima was already aboard a British Airways plane about to depart for London when his aides got wind of the attacks. They made frantic efforts to reach him but the plane was already taxiing to take off. A senior official of the Borno State Government said Shettima was on his way to the United States to attend a seminar on peace and conflict resolution. The aide said an hour before he left for the airport, the governor spoke to the General Officer Commanding [GOC] the 7 Division and they reviewed the security situation in the state. No attack had taken place at the time they spoke, he said.
To many observers, what happened in Maiduguri yesterday wasn’t surprising because the Boko Haram insurgents had stepped up in surrounding villages, killing over 600 people between January and the first week of March.

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