19 June 2012

Nigeria: As JTF, Boko Haram Battle Rages, Blasts, Gunfire Rock Damaturu

Photo: Vanguard
A victim of the violence in Kaduna

Damaturu — Many people, including civilians, attackers and operatives of various security agencies were feared killed yesterday when over a dozen high profile bombs exploded and gunmen fired gunshots for several hours in many parts of Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, witnesses said.

Residents said crisis erupted around 5.00pm and continued unabated, a development that forced the state capital to a standstill as people scampered for safety while thick smoke and raging flames enveloped the skies.

According to witnesses, the Joint Task Force (JTF) had engaged the attackers numbering over 100 in a gun dwell into the night. One report said the attackers were heading for the private residence of the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, while another report said they were heading for the governor's official residence along Maiduguri Road.

Commander of the JTF in Yobe State, Colonel Dahiru Abdulsalam, confirmed that there was an attack in Damaturu yesterday, but that his men were on top of the situation.

"We are on top of the situation...We actually arrested a member of the Boko Haram who was about planting an explosive somewhere," he said.

He said JTF operatives had also discovered a hideout of the sect members at a primary school in Sabon Fege. "We have mobilized our men to the site," he said.

No group claimed responsibility as at press time but the attacks mirrored the pattern of onslaught being perpetrated by members of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram.

Sources said yesterday's clamp down was sparked off by the arrest of a suspected member of the Boko Haram earlier in the day in Damaturu, who allegedly died in custody of security operatives.

It was also learnt from reliable sources that about 25 members of the Boko Haram sect were arrested at Yindiski area in Potiskum, 120km away from the state capital.

A source at the Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital, Damaturu confirmed that trouble started at the hospital around 5pm when some soldiers took a suspected member of the sect to the hospital for treatment.

"He was brought to the Accident and Emergency section with some bullet wounds for treatment. He was alive when they brought him. However, when we were about treating him, we heard endless gunshots behind the perimeter fence of the hospital. Some of the soldiers mobilized to the direction of the gunshots and fired back while the remaining soldiers took the suspect away," the source said.

"It was from here that the fighting escalated to many parts of the city in what looked like a series of coordinated attacks," the source added.

Speaking in low voices, many residents told Daily Trust by phone that yesterday's attack may likely be more devastating than the November 4th, 2011 spontaneous attacks in Damaturu which left many people dead and reduced many buildings and symbols of authority to shreds.

Resident Maryam Ali said there was fighting between suspected gunmen and operatives of the Joint Task Force at Sabon Fegi area where the private residence of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam is located.

Sounds of blasts and gunshots soon manifested in other areas, including Nayinawa, Gwange, Gashua Road, Ali Marami as well as settlements in the western and eastern bypass of Damaturu.

"I am afraid to tell you that the assailants have probably attacked the governor's private house in Sabon Fegi," Mohammed Sani, a resident of the area said, adding that he saw a thick smoke from the direction of the house where Governor Gaidam stays with his family.

Daily Trust also gathered that a police outpost located close to the governor's private residence was destroyed by the ravaging explosives of the gunmen.

The number of people killed and those injured could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report.

"It will not be possible to bring any corpse now because as I am talking to you, sounds of gunshots still rent the air and we have many outpatients that have been trapped here," the source at the hospital, who spoke to our correspondent around 9.20pm said.

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