Several soldiers and policemen as well as civilians were among the casualties of Thursday's attack on Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, where the military claimed it killed 21 suspected members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect, a military source and eyewitnesses revealed Saturday.
It was gathered that before the soldiers could wake up to repel the insurgents, some of them have been killed in a surprise attack on the town.
The Yobe State capital has in recent times not witnessed any major attack by the insurgents and this has lulled the residents into believing that the worst days were over.
But the coordinated attacks launched by Boko Haram insurgents on military formations and other security facilities including the newly established 232 Army Battalion at Kukareta, along Maiduguri-Damaturu road at about 5.30pm last Thursday surprised everyone.
The insurgents were alleged to have stormed the town through the NNPC Mega Station on the outskirts of the city and opened fire on soldiers and policemen at a military checkpoint in front of the petrol station, taking them by surprise.
According to an eyewitness account, the militants "came in a convoy of about three Hilux vehicles painted in army green. Guns were mounted on top of the vehicles with the insurgents too. They started shooting as soon as they came to the main road and unknown to most of us that many of their people (attackers) have surrounded the soldiers at the military checkpoint. I think they were there before the other ones arrived though nobody knew."
It was during the attack on the sentry that a staff member of the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspapers in the production department of the Northeast Regional Office, Abdulwasiu Akinsanya who left Maiduguri with his family on Thursday to proceed on vacation was felled. A member of staff in the newspapers' regional office Maiduguri told journalists that: "He (Abdulwasiu Akinsanya) was on annual leave and decided to travel with his family. His car developed fault and he managed to push the car to the military checkpoint after pleading for the soldiers' understanding so that he could look for a towing-vehicle to get the car to mechanic workshop. He was however caught by the insurgents' bullets while he was thanking the soldiers for their understanding and gesture."
Akinsanya was reportedly killed alongside the uniformed guards while the insurgents moved to other parts of the town to wreak havoc.
In response to the siege, the military authorities had initially imposed 24-hour curfew on the city on Thursday and Friday but the curfew was subsequently reviewed to last from between 4pm to 7am with effect from Saturday, October 26. Spokesman of the 3 Division Special Operation Battalion, Captain Eli Lazarus had in a statement said 21 of the insurgents were killed by the military troops, adding that security agencies in the state are still on a manhunt of the insurgents in various locations within the town.
"At about 5:30pm Wednesday 24 October, 2013, gunmen in large numbers suspected to be members Of Boko Haram terrorists attacked a military checkpoint close to the NNPC Mega Station along Damaturu -Maiduguri road," he said. "Troops of 3 Division Special Operation Battalion had a fierce encounter with the terrorists in various parts of Damaturu the Yobe State capital for several hours.
"Twenty one of the insurgents were killed during the encounter while three of their vehicles were recovered. Other items recovered include four AK 47 rifles, one FN rifle, one rocket propelled grenade, one rocket propelled grenade bomb (RPG), one extra barrel of GPMG, several Improvised Explosive Devices and 709 rounds of assorted ammunition." The busy Maiduguri-Damaturu highway which was shut down in the wake of the attack on Thursday has also been reopened as life gradually returned to the state capital yesterday.