Explosions and gunfire erupted before dawn Monday in the northeast Nigerian town of Damaturu, scaring some residents to take to the bush and others to cower in their homes in the latest attack by suspected Islamic extremists.
Resident Garba Musa said attackers from the West African nation’s home-grown Boko Haram group targeted a mobile police base on the outskirts of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state.
It has been burned down completely,” he said.
A helicopter gunship arrived and was seen hovering.
Many fearful residents said they locked themselves into their homes after a series of explosions and gunshots woke them at about 4 a.m.
But civil servant Abdullahi Abba said he persuaded his family to take off on foot and hide in the bush. “We’ve been hearing these gunshots and bombs since the early hours and felt unsafe staying at home.” He said they hoped to trek to the nearby town of Tarmuwa.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, some across borders into neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, in the insurgency that has killed thousands in five years.
Boko Haram has increased the frequency and deadliness of its attacks and is holding a couple dozen towns and villages along the border in the northeast where it has declared an Islamic caliphate.
The extremists are blamed for a Friday bomb attack that killed at least 102 people among hundreds who had gathered on Islam’s holy day at the main mosque in northern Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. More than 150 people were wounded and authorities are appealing for blood donors.
The attackers first set off two explosions, then gunned down people trying to escape, witnesses said.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack and promised the government would do everything possible to end terrorism in the country. But such pledges appear to fire up the extremists to commit even more and deadlier attacks.
Nigeria’s military is demoralized with soldiers saying they are outnumbered and outgunned by the insurgents. Residents and state authorities report that soldiers frequently run away when Boko Haram attacks !!