The Nigerian military successfully repelled a Boko Haram attack on Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, an official has said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the panic in Damaturu as loud gunshots and artillery fire rented the air.
Residents rushed into their houses and businesses closed hurriedly on Sunday evening while the attack occurred.
While speaking on the attack, the spokesman of Sector II of Operation Lafiya Dole, Damaturu, Njoka Irabor, told PREMIUM TIMES that “the insurgents made an attempt to enter Damaturu from the northern flank of the town but were given a heavy blow by both air and ground troops.”
Mr Irabor, an army captain, said Sunday night that Damaturu was now calm and “details of the attack will be relayed by tomorrow”.
While the attack on Damaturu occurred, scores of vehicles trying to get to the town were stranded as the army blocked the roads leading into the town.
Witnesses said more than 200 vehicles were stranded including the Borno State governor’s convoy along Damaturu-Maiduguri highway.
Some journalists who were part of the governor’s convoy told PREMIUM TIMES that over 200 vehicles including commercial and private cars were held up at the entrance of Damaturu town at about 9 p.m.
Governor Babagana Zulum was, however, not in the convoy, which was said to be travelling to Gombe where it would be joined by the Borno governor for a tour of Southern Borno.
“Sir. please this is to inform you that presently military at Damaturu entrance from Maiduguri have closed and blocked the highway not allowing motorists entrance into Damaturu since 3-4 pm. Over 200 heavy and small private and commercial vehicles are stranded. Some are going for Xmas in Gombe, Yola, Kani, Kaduma, Abuja, Jos and others. Even Gov Zulum convoy is now stranded on the road in Damaturu. We learnt that intelligence said BHTs said they will enter Damaturu from Gashau axis but the military has not made any explanation yet. People helpless and afraid of being attacked by BHTs from the bushes at worst without any security with them. Govs Press Crew and Correspondents Chapel of NUJ are also on the convoy. Thanks. Please help these innocent motorists and passengers,” one of the journalists in the convoy wrote in a message to PREMIUM TIMES.
Another traveller, Bulama Shettima, who is also stranded on the road, said they have been there since 3.00 p.m. on Sunday.
“We arrived this place since 3.00 p.m. and realised that the road is closed by the soldiers. They did not give us any explanation until we started getting information that Boko Haram are trying to attack Damaturu,” Mr Shettima said.
“My question is how are we safe staying here on this road. It’s risky for us. Can the soldiers protect us sleeping on this road,” he said on Sunday night.
A commercial driver, Abdullahi Shehu, travelling to Kaduna via Kano said most of his passengers, including children and their parents. are travelling for Christmas.
“It’s very obvious that we are going to sleep here with little children. Many of my passengers are going for Christmas and look at what has happened now. I just pray for Allah’s protection on us on this road,” the driver, who identified himself as Shehu, said.
PREMIUM TIMES report that Saturday’s daring attack is the second by Boko Haram on Damaturu within two months. Both attacks were from the Gashua part of the town which has now become a flashpoint for the insurgents.
The first attack occurred early last month a few days after the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, visited Yobe.
It was alleged that the insurgents wanted to steal the 30 Hilux vehicles that Yobe governor Mala Buni donated to security operatives in the state.
Sunday’s attack was however more scary to residents as heavy shelling of artillery guns and rocket launchers, as well as sporadic gunshots, were heard around the city.