20 soldiers, 2 copters destroyed in worst Boko Haram strike

Reports filtering out of the beleaguered Nigerian city, Maiduguri, have it that over 20 security operatives may have been killed while two helicopters at the 79 Composite Group, NAF Base headquarters were burnt down including some Staff Quarters, petrol stations and shops, by rampaging Boko Haram militants.
The military authorities are for now keeping a lid on the extent of human losses on the part of Nigerian soldiers, but they admitted repelling the attackers, and inflicting heavy losses on them.
Local residents said the attacks were launched by hundreds of heavily armed Boko Haram gunmen.
Boko Haram had previously launched massive, coordinated attacks on the security services in Borno and neighbouring Yobe state, but the reported scale of the latest strike early Monday, could make it one of the biggest against the military in many months.
The attack, which closed Maiduguri’s civilian airport and roads into and out of the city, comes after military claims that the banned group had been successfully pushed out of urban centres into more remote, rural areas of Borno state.
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“I saw two air force helicopters burnt while in the whole of the 79 Composite Group (of the Nigerian Air Force) few buildings are still standing. Most of the structures have been attacked and destroyed,” said one man, who lives nearby, of Monday’s attacks.
“At the 33 Artillery (battalion of the Nigerian Army), the terrorists have destroyed the barracks and took away an armoured (personnel) carrier but left it along the highway.
“We heard women and children in the barracks crying and wailing. At the gate, I saw some vehicles destroyed and the checkpoint there in shreds,” said the man, a local government official, who asked to remain anonymous.
The man, who said he watched the attacks unfurl with his wife from his house, added that two people had been shot dead.
“Frankly speaking, if the insurgents had wanted, they could have killed all of us… because they came in large numbers… some with explosives, some with rocket-propelled grenades and some with AK-47 rifles,” he added.
But the Nigerian Army’s spokesman in Maiduguri, Colonel Muhammed Dole, said the Boko Haram fighters had been “successfully repelled” and had suffered “serious casualties”, without specifying numbers.
The areas around the airport were “calm and under control”, Dole said, adding: “Our troops supported by the Nigerian Air Force aircrafts are presently pursuing the terrorists towards the Maiduguri-Benisheik road.”
Nigeria’s government imposed a state of emergency in Borno and two other northeast states in May, cutting phone links in a move designed to block militants from coordinating attacks.
Details of the ongoing conflict have as a result been difficult to verify.
The latest violence began at around 3:00 am (0200 GMT) and included bomb and gun attacks, said an AFP correspondent in the city, where Boko Haram was founded more than 10 years ago.
“They entered Maiduguri from the bush, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great),” said one Nigerian intelligence officer, adding that some insurgents had been detained, without specifying numbers.
Ambulances were seen moving out of the air force base and the adjoining Ngomari neighbourhood, according to the correspondent.
Roads in the city were deserted and the sound of sirens from military vehicles could be heard, he added.
The insurgents had also ambushed military checkpoints on the outskirts of the city, while shops and petrol stations were also said to have been set on fire, local residents said.
State government secretary Baba Ahmed Jidda called for calm, disclosing that only emergency service vehicles were allowed to move during the curfew, which would be lifted “as soon as the situation improves”.
Monday’s attacks came after suspected Boko Haram militants killed 24 people in two separate strikes in Borno state last week and following a military pledge to tighten security in border regions due to fears of Christmas and New Year attacks. It also came after the army said they had launched an aerial and ground bombardment on camps being used by the insurgents around the Sambisa Forest area.
The Spokesman of the 7 Division, Colonel Mohammed Dole confirmed the multiple attacks and killings by the terrorists suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect.
In a statement, Dole said, ”In the early hours of Monday 2 December 2013, Boko Haram terrorists attempted to gain access to Military locations in Maiduguri Metropolis. However, troops of the 7 Division, Nigerian Army have successfully repelled the insurgents and afflicted serious casualties on them.
”The situation around Jimtilo and Maiduguri International Airport General Areas are now calm and under control. Our troops supported by Nigerian Air force aircraft are presently pursuing the terrorists towards the Maiduguri- Beneshiekh- Damaturu road. Members of the general public are requested to remain calm and comply with the 24 hours curfew imposed by the Borno State Government. The curfew will be reviewed periodically as the situation improves”.
Although, Colonel Dole who briefly spoke to Journalists at the Government House did not give further details on the number of casualties from the side of the military or the terrorists, but insisted that during the attacks, the military troops were able to inflict serious casualties on the terrorists.
He said, ” gentlemen, I will still come back and furnish you with further details, as at now, we are busy, but I will get back to you, please exercise patience”. Dole said after issuing his statement.


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