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Nigerian Militants Leave Path of Destruction Near Maiduguri

  • Anne Look

Maiduguri, Nigeria

Maiduguri, Nigeria

The Nigerian army says suspected Boko Haram militants attacked military and police installations on the outskirts of the northern city of Maiduguri early Monday - the first major attack in the Borno state capital since the government imposed a state of emergency in May. There has been no official word on the number of dead or wounded on either side.

The destruction stretches along several kilometers of road between the Nigerian Air Force base and the 33 Battalion army barracks.

Children and teenagers crowd around the charred and still-smoking corpse of what locals say was one of the attackers, who was on a bicycle.

"That Boko Haram. You see [his] bicycle. He have a gun in hand. So the peoples and the soldiers catch him and kill him and come and park him here. They are putting the fire," said one bystander.

Locals put a tire on top of the body and set fire to it.

Residents point to burnt-out trucks with gun mounts that litter the roadside and say they belonged to the attackers. They show reporters the bodies of two local men they say were shot in the head by the attackers.

The road leading to the Nigerian Air Force base is littered with large shells. The blue and white gates of the base are closed. The large knot of soldiers and police out front will not let journalists enter.

It is impossible to gauge what destruction may have taken place beyond the walls of the air force base.

Up ahead is the recently constructed 33 Battalion army barracks, or at least what is left of them. What appears to be the charred remains of a car bomb blacken the street out front. The inner gate is crumpled. Three tankers at the truck stop across the street are ashy and torched.

Inside the barracks, burnt out cars litter the grass. The buildings also have burned, their metal roofs crunched up and tossed to the ground.

Smoke is still rising from a police station down the road from the Air Force base.

Major attacks blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram

  • July - Attacks prompt government crackdown in Bauchi and Maiduguri; 800 people killed

  • December - Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86

  • June - Attack on a bar in Maiduguri kills 25
  • August - Suicide bomber kills 23 at U.N. building in Abuja
  • November - Bombings in Damaturu and Potiskum kill 65
  • December - Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39

  • January -- Gun and bomb attacks in Kano kill up to 200
  • February - Maiduguri market attack kills 30
  • June - Suicide car bombings at three churches kill 21
  • July - Attacks in Plateau state kill dozens, including two politicians at a funeral for the victims

  • February - French family kidnapped in Cameroon, held hostage for two months
  • April - Fighting with troops in Baga kills up to 200; residents say troops set deadly fires
  • May - Attacks in Bama kill more than 50
  • July - Gunmen kill 30 at a school in Yobe
  • August - Gunmen kill 44 at a mosque outside Maiduguri
  • September - Gunmen kill 40 students a dorm in Yobe
  • October - Attack Yobe state capital Damaturu, clash with military in Borno state

In all, the site visit yields few details about what actually happened during the night, though it does appear to have been a heavy, multi-pronged attack.

One teenager who lives in the area said in Hausa, "They came in the night and they started shooting. There were many of them. I had to lie down on the ground. Bullets were overhead."

Borno State governor Kashim Shettima has pledged to rebuild destroyed buildings and said the government would not be cowed by these attacks.

7th Army Division spokesman, Colonel Muhammed Dole, said in a written statement that the army was able to "repel the insurgents and inflict serious causalities on them." He did not specify how many attackers there were.

The state capital is now under a 24-hour curfew for the first time since the start of the early days of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009.

Maiduguri is where the radical sect known as Boko Haram began about a decade ago. From 2010 on, the city was the site of near daily attacks and bombings, but there have not been any attacks within the city in the six months since the president declared the state of emergency.

Nigeria launched a massive land and air offensive against Boko Haram in the northeast in May. Military officials say air strikes have been key to flushing insurgents out of rural safe havens with fighter jets bombing Boko Haram training camps and hideouts.

It was not immediately clear whether any aircraft or other air force installations were damaged in Monday's attack. Such damage could be a blow to government efforts.

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