Many people have been killed and scores injured on Tuesday when Boko Haram fighters launched multiple attacks on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Nine boys were killed while playing football at Gwange, near the house of the late General Mamman Shuwa, when rockets landed in the area, witnesses said.
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“Four people have been confirmed dead in our area, known as Adam Kolo,” said a Maiduguri based journalists, Ali Chiroma.
“The explosive fell a few metres from our house. All the people that sustained injuries have been rushed to the UMTH for treatment,” he said.
Adults including men and women as well as children were among the fatalities, with sources saying some of the victims have lost their limbs.
The areas worst affected are Kalere, behind the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH); Gwange; Adam Kolo, not far from the Shehu of Borno’s Palace and adjoining densely populated areas.
Residents and security sources said following the first set of bombs launched at densely populated areas of the city, the terrorists made attempts to use the opportunity to go into the town but were repelled.
It was the first major and audacious assault on Maiduguri in years, heightening fears among residents that the terrorists might be lurking around, observers said.
A top security source said the terrorists deployed mortar bombs and rocket launchers from the outskirt of Maiduguri and targeted the civilian population, killing many and inflicting serious injuries in others.
It was learnt that the terrorists fired the first assault around 6.04 pm and sustained the attacks for over 30 minutes, prompting thunderous sound that caused a scare as people scampered for safety.
Some of the victims were rushed to UMTH while others were taken to the Specialists Hospital around the Post Office area.
Governor Babagana Zulum was at the UMTH where he sympathized with the injured.
All efforts to reach out to the military in Maiduguri; NEMA and SEMA, for official comments were not successful.
Victims soaked in blood in hospitals
At the UMTH along Bama Road, humanitarian workers, family of victims and acquaintances rushed their injured loved ones for treatment.
There was high traffic at the Accident and Emergency Unit of the hospital with relatives struggling to get the attention of health workers to treat the injured.
“We would most likely stabilise some of the injured but the case of some of them is bad,” a doctor said, asking for anonymity.
“Some of the victims would require surgery and others would need blood transfusion. There are some who lost their limbs…” he said.
Another source at the hospital confirmed that they have 9 dead bodies brought to the facility following the multiple blasts in Maiduguri.
“It is an overwhelming situation; we have many injured persons currently receiving treatment now,” he said.
It was learnt that in other areas that similar attacks were launched, families of people that sustained serious injuries were treated at private clinics and taken back home long before the arrival of humanitarian workers.
How the attack was launched
A security source said dozens of terrorists mobilised towards Maiduguri with some of them taking cover in the bush, while those with lethal weapons advanced and took a cover in trenches.
A resident, Modu Lawal, said: “I was at a friend’s house located near the UMTH when I heard the violent explosions. I saw people running to places of safety and I had to stay at my friend’s.”
Lawal said his brother later told him on the phone that another device fired by the attackers injured people at the Gwange area.
Fighter jets and helicopter gunships were deployed and hovered in the sky, forcing the attackers to retreat.
The surprising attack came barely two hours after the military claimed to have recaptured Marte town and three other communities seized by the insurgents a week ago.
“I am sure the terrorists took time and planned the multiple attacks and targeted the city towards the evening,” a Maiduguri resident, Malam Umaru, said.
He said the terrorists deployed many mortar bombs and rocket launchers that fell on houses in areas populated by locals.
A mortar is an artillery weapon that fires explosive shells. Another source said it was the dry broad ditch (moat) dug years ago around Maiduguri that saved the day.
“The terrorists would have infiltrated the city centre if not for the ditch and considering that soldiers have been deployed to many entry points of Maiduguri. The attackers were left with no option but to use rocket launchers and mortars,” he said.
Abubakar Mohammed, a resident of Maiduguri, said, “What happened today is unfortunate, especially at a time when people around Maiduguri were happy.
“Maiduguri had enjoyed relative peace in recent times but people in the city have been weakened today following multiple assaults on the city.
“The Nigerian Armed Forces need to change their operational tactics and information flow, a lot need to be done to sustain public confidence,” he said.
In his reaction, the Chairman of the Network Civil Society Organisation, Borno State, Ambassador Ahmed Shehu, said the attack revealed the vulnerability of surrounding communities despite the security plans on ground.