Damaturu and Maiduguri — A lone suicide bomber in a vehicle loaded with explosives yesterday rammed into a military veicle in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, killing six soldiers and three civilians. The bomber also died in the attack, witnesses said.
The Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility.
Witnesses said the incident took place around 12 noon at Shagari Low-Cost junction in Damaturu. Following the blast, most residents hurriedly rushed back to their homes as angry JTF operatives fired gunshots continuously into the air.
Daily Trust gathered that the suicide bomber parked his vehicle by the road side waiting for the JTF patrol team which he suspected was trailing him, and suddenly detornated the explosives as the patrol team they approached him.
One witness who has a shop close to the scene said: "I saw him (suicide bomber) when he parked a CR-V jeep by the roadside. When the army vehicles vehicle approached, he suddenly crashed into one of them. Many people were affected by the heavy explosion, including one of our shop attendants who was killed instantly by the effect of the blast. The other attendant sustained serious injuries."
Yobe state police commissioner Mr. Patrick Egbuniwe confirmed the incident, saying two military patrol vehicles suspected a CRV jeep and trailed the speeding driver, not knowing that the vehicle was loaded with explosives.
"As they stopped him, the EIDs detonated and killed six soldiers, injured one soldier and a civilian," he said.
Military men were seen clearing the wreckage of the vehicle and the mutilated body parts of the soldiers after cordoning the area.
A hospital source told Daily Trust that six corpses of military men and one civilian were deposited at the morgue.
Residents of the area also said to have fled their homes because of fear of the unknown.
Witnesses also said two tricycles conveying passengers were hit by the blast and two people including a retired vehicle inspection officer (VIO) called Malam Baba Fada were killed. There was no official confirmation of the killing of the two.
One resident reported that mutilated body parts were hurled into nearby houses. "I found a human arm at my backyard and I decided to leave the house so that the military men will pick it by themselves," he told our reporter.
Also in Damaturur, a cobbler was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at Sani Daura 250 housing estate along Potiskum road, a witness said. He was reportedly shot at close range at his workplace.
The gunmen equally seized a vehicle belonging to a local resident shortly after killing the cobbler. "They told him to sacrifice his car so that it can be used in executing Jihad (Islamic warfare)," a witness said.
Meanwhile a press statement by Abul Qaqa, the spokesman of the Boko Haram which was made available to reporters yesterday said the group was responsible for the Damaturu attacks, the killings of some soldiers at Kaleri area in Maiduguri on Saturday as well as the attack in Gombe.
The statement reads: "All gratitude goes to the Almighty Allah. On Saturday around 6pm, the warriors of Almighty Allah were on a mission but were attacked by a detachment of JTF operatives at Kaleri area of Maiduguri. As our lord pleases, our warriors succeeded in sending many of them to their graves.
"Similarly, we succeeded in killing six soldiers during an encounter with them in Gombe town.
"Again, we triumphed in Damaturu today (yesterday), around 12 noon when JTF operatives attempted to stop one of our warriors in his bomb laden vehicle at a checkpoint. After realizing their intention, he did not waste time in crashing into them," the statement said.
Our correspondents could not ascertain the number of soldiers, gunmen and civilians killed in the Kaleri attack in Maiduguri but residents said there was heavy casualty on the side of JTF operatives and the Boko Haram insurgents.
Efforts to speak to the JTF spokesman in Borno State, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, were not successful. It was gathered that he had lost his younger brother and had travelled out of town.
Most roads leading to the area of the attack in Damaturu yesterday had been cordoned off while security operatives intensified surveillance. The state capital was gripped by fear as traders at the Damaturu Sunday market fled leaving their animals and merchandize in the open.
Also, though curfew has been relaxed (now 9pm to 6am), our correspondents also reports that people were finding it difficult to observe Tarawi (night prayers), one of the major features of Ramadan, for fear of the unknown.
Also in Maiduguri, some unidentified gunmen shot dead Alhaji Abdulkadir Kaasa, former commissioner for environment in Borno State, in the early hours of yesterday.
Witnesses said Kaasa, who served as commissioner during the administration of Ali Modu Sheriff was shot dead at his home in Bayan Quarters area of Maiduguri where the destroyed mosque of the Boko Haram sect was located.
Witnesses said he was killed around 1.30am by the some gunmen who stormed his residence.
Our reporter gathered that the gunmen numbering 10, shot him several times before fleeing the area after they were satisfied that he was dead.
A local resident said the gunmen who ransacked the rooms of his wives also carted away undisclosed amount of money and jewelleries belonging to the women.
Both Joint Task Force (JTF) spokesman Lt. Col Sagir Musa and PPRO of the Borno police command Gideon Jibrin could not be reached as at the time of filing this report.