Nigerian troops on Sunday repelled Islamic extremists who attacked from four fronts on Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria, with several civilians killed by aerial bombs and grenades and mortar shells on the ground. Soldiers said hundreds of insurgents died.
Terrified residents fled homes shaking from five hours of heavy artillery fire and streamed in from the outskirts of the besieged city of 2 million, already crowded with another 2,00,000 refugees from the fighting.
For weeks Boko Haram has been closing in on Maiduguri, the groups spiritual birthplace, said Jacob Zenn, author of a book about the insurgents.
Its third attack in a week on Maiduguri came as Chadian forces launched a winning offensive, acting on an African Union directive for Nigeria’s neighbours to help fight the spreading Islamic uprising by Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram extremists.
International outrage has grown over attacks across the border into Cameroon and increasing ferocity that culminated in the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in Baga on January 3. A Chadian jet fighter supported by ground troops bombed the extremists out of Gamboru and Kolfata on Saturday and from Malumfatori on Thursday, witnesses said.
Chadian troops in Kolfata were “dancing around their country’s flag and chanting,” farmer Awami Kolobe said, quoting refugees who returned across the border from Cameroon. The towns had been under the sway of Boko Haram for months.
Gamboru is about 140 kilometres northeast of Maiduguri, and Baga is another 100 kilometres north of Gamboru, on Lake Chad, where Nigeria’s borders converge with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
African leaders at a summit yesterday authorised the creation of a 7,500—strong multinational force to fight Boko Haram.
Boko Haram warned against the coalition and said it will attack Niger, if it sends troops, just as it has attacked Cameroon, according to a message posted today by the SITE intelligence monitoring service.