Pour days after one of its members was captured at the Baga fish market in Maiduguri, the Boko Haram sect Monday paid a retaliatory visit to the place, throwing several explosives which shook the ancient town.
In the ensuing gun battle with the men of the Joint Task Force (JTF), several persons were killed. Some residents said over 15 persons were killed but the JTF said it killed eight members of the sect, maintaining that there were no civilian casualties.
It also emerged Monday that seven victims of the Christmas Day blasts in Madalla, Niger State, have gone blind.
A source at the Baga market claimed that two traders were gunned down by the sect members and several others were injured before the soldiers came.
According to the source, the sect members invaded the market at 1pm and threw several explosives which caused panic.
The blasts drew the attention of the soldiers attached to the JTF stationed near the market and they exchanged gunfire with the sect members.
The source said: "We saw about three pick-up vans loaded with people in front of Ibrahim Taiwo Police Station, opposite the Baga Market this afternoon shortly after the gun battle with members of the sect, but we cannot tell whether they were corpses or those wounded."
He claimed it was a retaliatory attack on the market.
"The sect members were believed to have attacked the traders in the market following last Thursday's arrest of one of their members who entered the market to kill a trader but was overpowered and beaten and handed over to men of the JTF," he said.
Confirming the incident to journalists, the spokesman of the JTF, Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, said the task force killed eight members of Boko Haram "during a gun battle".
He said the JTF was informed of an attack in the Baga Market where three traders were shot by members of the Boko Haram sect.
"Our men who arrived the market engaged members of the Boko Haram sect in gun battle and we successfully killed eight of the sect members where we recovered weapons as well as detonated some IEDs and recovered some others," he said.
According to him, the three traders shot at the market did not die as they were taken to hospital where they were receiving medical attention.
"The number of dead could not be less than 30," a Maiduguri hospital nurse told AFP news agency.
Mohammed had said several people had been wounded but that there was "no civilian death at this time".
He said the military "immediately came to the rescue of the situation and safely detonated three bombs planted by members of the sect and shot and killed eight members of the sect".
However, a trader who gave his name as Mairami said six gunmen stormed the food and commodities market and "opened fire indiscriminately. At least 30 people including women and children were killed".
Another vendor by the name Gana gave AFP a similar account of the attack.
"The gunmen just opened fire killing people. I saw three military vans piled with bodies leaving the market. There were several explosions after the shooting," Gana said.
The attackers had accused traders of collaborating with the military following the arrest last week of a suspected Boko Haram member in the market, witnesses said.
Mairami said one gunman shouted angrily that traders had "teamed up with soldiers" to help arrest members of the sect.
"We have henceforth waged war against you," Mairami said the gunman had declared, before spraying bullets on both vendors and customers.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Monday donated N25 million to the families of the victims and those affected by the Christmas Day blasts at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State.
The Parish Priest, Rev. Father Isaac Achi, said that seven of the 83 injured members of the church "have gone permanently blind".
"Out of the 127 victims, we lost 44; out of the injured, seven lost their sight, four are still at Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, eight at National Hospital, while others have been referred to Kano, Zaria, Lagos and Enugu," he said.
Achi further disclosed that some of the injured had been discharged after treatment, adding that the bomb explosion brought a lot of pains and sorrow to the community that was once peaceful and calm.