Anumber of explosions rocked parts of Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe State, as the combined team of the Nigerian army and the police battled Boko Haram members in sustained overnight fire fight.
As the dust began to clear, it became obvious that the sect members had killed some soldiers and senior police officers during the confrontation, which involved the use of heavy weapons by both sides. Details of the dead soldiers were not given but it emerged that the assistant commissioner of police in charge of operations, Ibrahim Abubakar, and the commander of the Mobile Police Unit 41, S. P. Kabiru, a superintendent of police, were among policemen who lost their lives in the battle.
Despite the deaths, fierce but sporadic fighting intensified in many parts of Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum as the insurgents continued their onslaught against the combined team of soldiers and policemen.
The chief of army staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, boasted yesterday that the army launched a successful operation on the sect’s operational stronghold in Damaturu, Yobe State, killing 59 of the sect members and destroying their armoury.
Speaking during his first official visit to the Guards Brigade headquarters in Abuja, the army boss confirmed that the sect killed three soldiers and wounded seven others during the encounter, which lasted many hours.
Azubuike said, “There was a major encounter with the Boko Haram in Damaturu yesterday. In the encounter, we overran their major stronghold and their ammunition site.
“And, as is usual in any such encounter, we lost three of our soldiers; seven were wounded but we killed over 50 of their members. They came with sophisticated and heavy weaponry including GPMGs, SMGs and bombs but our trained soldiers subdued them.
An eyewitness told BBC Hausa that residents were too scared to remain in their homes. Some were fleeing the town while others had sought shelter in a school and a mosque, he said.
The Yobe police commissioner, Lawal Tanko, confirmed yesterday that his forces were advancing on a building where they believed the militants were hiding.
Hand-made grenades were being lobbed at his forces from the building, he said.
Another eyewitness in Damaturu said that he had seen military reinforcements entering the town yesterday in a bid to defeat the militants.
Hospital sources in Damaturu told journalists that many had been rushed to the wards for medical attention and that they might soon run out of supplies if the fighting continued.
In Potiskum, about 120km (75 miles) west of Damaturu, cars were burnt and a police station attacked by gunmen overnight.
Mr Tanko said the situation in Potiskum was still tense, but the gunfire had died down.
There were also three explosions in the city of Maiduguri on Thursday. The capital of Borno has borne the brunt of Boko Haram attacks in the past few years.
Meanwhile, the Yobe State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, yesterday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state in the wake of the clash between securities agencies and the Boko Haram Sect.