By Michael Olugbodi in
Maiduguri, Jaiyeola Andrews and Onyebuchi Ezeigbo in Abuja with Agency report
Nigeria’s military on Saturday repelled a Boko Haram attack on the key north-eastern city of Maiduguri, hours after President Muhammadu Buhari took office vowing to crush the Islamist group.
Also, there was a bomb blast on Saturday at a mosque near the popular Monday Market in Maiduguri. According to a youth vigilante source, Abba Modu, the incident occurred during the Muslim early evening prayer (3:40pm) at one of the mosques located near the Monday market.
In his reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned in strong term, the latest terrorist attack on Maiduguri. He equally warned that his new administration would not tolerate wanton and willful destruction of life by criminal elements that are bent on anarchy.
Sources said the overnight attack on the Borno State capital saw rocket-propelled grenades fired into homes in a bombardment that reportedly lasted several hours.
The fighting was most heavily concentrated in the Dala suburb to the South of the city.
“It was a nightmare,” Malam Yusuf told AFP. He said his own home was hit and his wife’s foot was “blown off”.
“RPGs kept flying and falling on homes,” he said.
While some residents described watching bodies being recovered from targeted homes, no-one was able to provide a precise death toll.
Commenting on the suicide bomb attack at the mosque, Abba Modu said the suicide bomber mingled with worshippers pretending to have come to pray, before detonating the bomb resulting in 16 deaths with 30 others injured.
Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, later paid a visit to the scene of the suicide attack to ascertain the level of destruction.
A youth vigilante member, who was involved in the evacuation of the injured to the hospital, said the death toll may rise.
He told our correspondent on phone: “That it would require more than a miracle for some of those who were critically injured to make it beyond Saturday night.
The youth vigilante who spoke anonymously added that: “The injury was severe and about ten of those we took to the hospital were hanging on the thread and may take divine intervention to live beyond Saturday night.”
In his inaugural speech after taking the oath of office on Friday, Buhari described Boko Haram as a “mindless” and “godless” group that would ultimately be destroyed.
He announced plans to reinforce Maiduguri with a command and control centre to better co-ordinate the counter-insurgency effort, a move analysts said signalled his commitment to intensifying the fight.
It was not clear if Boko Haram’s fresh assault on the strategically crucial city was timed to coincide with the inauguration.
But the president will likely be tested repeatedly in the coming months by a militant group that has proved resilient over its six-year uprising.
Shortly after midnight, residents in Dala woke to the sound of RPGs being fired in succession, resident Modu Karumi said, in an account supported by several others.
Witnesses said hundreds of Islamist gunmen were trying to advance on the city, which is now home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by unrest in other parts of Borno state.
“Five houses were destroyed,” and Islamist gunmen fired indiscriminately in Dala and two neighbouring suburbs, said Babagana Bulunkutu, who describes himself as a vigilante.
An AFP reporter who lives in the area said he heard what sounded like armoured personnel carriers deploying to the southern edge of the city to face the rebel advance.
Three senior security sources in Maiduguri who were not authorised to speak publicly said the attack had been repelled.
“All is under control. There is no cause for alarm,” one of those sources told AFP.
Reacting to the latest attack which left scores of people dead, injured and maimed, Buhari, in a statement issued by the Head, his Media Team, Garba Shehu. assured that his administration meant business in its determination to tackle terrorism with all the resources available to his government.
While describing terrorists as cowardly murderers that target innocent people, the president also explained that as the Commander-in-Chief, he has sworn to protect the security of Nigerians everywhere.
The President while calling for increased vigilance by local communities, assured that his administration would give security close attention.
He added that his government was committed to boosting the morale of our armed forces by effectively funding them and attending to their welfare.
He condoled the families of the victims of the latest terrorist attack on Maiduguri and assured them that the worst days of these criminal elements will be over soon.
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