Updated on April 2
At least 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded in coordinated Boko Haram attacks overnight on a military camp and villages around the flashpoint Nigerian city of Maiduguri, officials said.
Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base at an entrance to the city in the Cashew Plantation area leading to a prolonged battle, a senior military officer in Maiduguri said on Monday, April 2.
“Eighteen Boko Haram terrorists on foot attacked the military base while seven suicide bombers targeted residents of nearby Bale Shuwar and Alikaranti villages at 8:50 pm [1950 GMT],” said the officer who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak about the incident, AFP reported.
“The terrorists fired mortars at troops,” the officer said.
“Fifteen persons including a soldier have so far been confirmed dead in the encounter, while about 83 persons who suffered varying degrees of injuries are receiving due medical attention,” army spokesman Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu said, Reuters reported.
“So far we have recovered 18 dead bodies from the two villages,” Bello Dambatto, chief security officer at the State Emergency Management Agency told AFP.
“The victims were killed while trying to escape the fight between the insurgents and the military,” Dambatto said.
Dambatto later told AFP that the death toll had risen to 20 after two people died in hospital from their wounds.
“We are not sure if the remaining 82 wounded victims will make it. Some of them are in critical condition and will require major surgery from their wounds, which are mostly from gunshots,” Dambatto said.
‘Huge blasts, gunfire’
One soldier was among the dead, the army said in a statement, adding that six insurgents were killed and seven suicide bombers were “neutralised.”
The attackers were trying to infiltrate into the city, said Ba’Kura Abba Ali, a militia leader in the area helping soldiers fight Boko Haram. They attacked troops after climbing over a trench that had been dug in the sand round the city to defend against Boko Haram, Ali said.
Maiduguri residents reported hearing at least five explosions and sounds of gunfire coming from the Cashew Plantation area.
“Huge blasts and sounds of gunshots were heard all over the city last night and they continued for more than an hour,” said one resident, Ibrahim Gremah.
Boko Haram’s nearly nine-year fight to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has claimed at least 20,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.
Hundreds of thousands live in camps or with host families in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
On Friday, four female suicide bombers aged between 13 and 18 killed two people in multiple attacks in Zawuya settlement on the outskirts of Maiduguri in the first assault since the government announced it was in ceasefire talks with Boko Haram.
In February, when more than 100 schoolgirls were returned to Dapchi after being kidnapped by the jihadist group, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said his government was offering amnesty to “repentant” jihadists.
The attacks highlight the challenge the government faces in striking a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram.
Competing Boko Haram factions
Negotiations are troubled by factionalism within Boko Haram, senior security officials say.
The government has not said which faction it is in talks with, and it is unclear which faction carried out Sunday’s attack.
Boko Haram is divided into two factions that have competing goals and operational methods. One, led by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi and affiliated with Islamic State, is apparently in talks with the government. The other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings.
“Talks have been ongoing between the government and the insurgents from the Al-Barnawi faction,” a source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source said peace talks began in earnest after the July 2017 attack on an oil exploration team in Lake Chad that killed at least 69 people.
“The major headache now is extending the talks to the Shekau faction which is averse to negotiations. Dealing with them is quite problematic.”
With reporting from AFP