The Joint Task Force (JTF) military unit on Saturday launched a preemptive strike against suspected terrorists believed to be Boko Haram fighters in Damaturu, Yobe State, north-east Nigeria.
The fierce battle between the JTF and the suspected terrorists was most heavily concentrated in the Nyanya and Obasanjo Estates areas of Damaturu.
Residents in the area reported hearing multiple explosions and sustained gunfire as the security forces engaged suspected Boko Haram Islamists.
“We are frightened due to the blasts and gunfire. We don’t know what is happening because we are indoors… We pray we stay safe,” a resident said.
“Explosions and gunshots have been going on in this neighbourhood (Nyanya) for over an hour,” another resident was quoted saying.
The JTF offensive followed an intelligence report that the dreaded Boko Haram Islamists planned to attack the city again, said the deputy police spokesman of Yobe state.
“Security operatives were able to discover a plan by Boko Haram hoodlums to launch attacks in the city,” Gbadegesin Toyin said.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) military unit “located their positions… they cordoned off these positions and engaged the gunmen in a shootout,” the deputy police spokesman added.
He said soldiers fired mortar rounds at the Islamist militants, who responded with gunfire and also threw improvised explosive devices, adding that the fighting was continuing.
The Police Commissioner in Yobe, Patrick Egbuniwe also confirmed the Saturday night incident saying “The attacks by the suspected terrorists commenced by 5pm today, the exchange of gunfire is still on and I cannot give you details on the multiple attacks in different locations.”
Yesterday’s gun duel comes barely 48 hours after the newly appointed National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki had a closed door meeting with traditional and religious leaders of Yobe state including Governor Ibrahim Gaidam at the Government House, Damaturu.
Boko Haram, the Islamist group which has claimed responsibility for killing hundreds of innocent Nigerians, says it was fighting for the creation of an Islamic state.
Analysts say extreme poverty and frustration in Northern Nigeria have been major factors fueling the armed rebellion.