Nigeria: Residents flee Maiduguri over terrorists’ threat

Red Cross officials load bodies into a truck in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano January 21, 2012. More than 100 people were killed in bomb attacks and gunfights in Nigeria’s second largest city Kano late on Friday, a senior local government security source told Reuters, in the deadliest coordinated strike claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram to date.

SUSPECTED terrorists yesterday scaled up their attacks in Borno, Kaduna and Sokoto states. Five people, including a suicide bomber who carried out the first attack in Sokoto since the insurgency in the North began in 2009, died in the explosion.

In Kaduna, it was a marked departure from related incidents as gunmen invaded the property of Vice President Namadi Sambo. Like the Sokoto bombing, the attack on Sambo’s house was also the first on the home of a top official in the Presidency.

The gunmen, who struck at the private residence of the Vice President in Tudun-Wada, Zaria, killed one person and injured two policemen on duty.

Incidentally, the house was razed by a mob during the April 2011 post-election violence in the state.

Confusion reigned in five wards in Maiduguri metropolis of Borno State yesterday as residents heeded the warning of the Boko Haram sect to vacate their homes and communities.

Prior to the residents’ action, there were claims in the state capital that terrorists had released leaflets where it threatened to hit at men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and ordered civilians in the heavily fortified wards to vacate them for their safety.

The armed men, who invaded Sambo’s house yesterday morning, currently under renovation, allegedly sprayed their victims with bullets.

Besides the cobbler who died on the spot, one of the wounded policemen reportedly died later in the hospital where they rushed them for treatment. The cobbler was allegedly killed by the gunmen during a crossfire with the policemen.

A witness told reporters that the three-man gang arrived the scene on a motorcycle at 11.00 a.m. and opened fire on the mobile policemen attached to the Vice President’s house without warning.

It was learnt that during the gun battle, one of the policemen was shot on the leg and the second on the hand while the cobbler was hit by bullets as he was polishing the shoes of one of the policemen.

Unofficial report said one of the policemen died at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Shika, where they were rushed for treatment.

The Kaduna Police Command confirmed yesterday that the cobbler died on the spot from a stray bullet during the exchange of gunfire between the police and the gunmen.

The command’s Acting Police Public Relations Officer, Malam Abubakar Balteh, said the gunmen, who opened fire on the policemen guarding the house, were repelled.

He said: “Yes, there was an attack. But the house was under construction. The policemen were guarding the house. A cobbler was killed by a stray bullet as a result of the exchange of fire between the three gunmen and the police. The cobbler died while one of the policemen was shot on the leg.”

A team of security operatives comprising the police, State Security Service (SSS) and soldiers later condoned the entire vicinity and searched both motorists and passers-by in the area.

In the Sokoto incident, a suicide bomber struck at the zonal office of the Nigeria Police and killed an officer on guard. The bomber also died in the attack.

The building, which was destroyed, housed the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Alhaji Mukhtari Ibrahim. The blast shattered the AIG’s office and his official car while the impact extended to the office of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and shops opposite the zonal police headquarters.

At the scene of the incident, Ibrahim said the bomber and a police corporal, Ismail, were killed while eight other policemen sustained various degrees of injuries.

“We had an unfortunate incident where a suicide bomber rammed into the headquarters with a car and killed himself. A police corporal, by name Ismail, was also killed and eight other officers were injured,” Ibrahim said.

The Deputy Police Commissioner, Kudu Nma, said the office of the Police Officers’ Wives’ Association (POWA) was attacked but the bomber was killed.

The areas in Maiduguri the terrorists allegedly listed as battlefields with the security forces are Adam Kolo, Shehuri, Limanti and Kaleri in Maiduguri metropolis.

As the residents took to their heels, the JTF swiftly moved to the areas and blocked the two roads leading to Gambouru Market and Ruwan Zafi to boost security in the wards but their action did not stop the panic-stricken residents from running to perceived safer spots.

A resident of Kaleri Ward told The Guardian yesterday that the people were not leaving anything to chances because the intense patrol of the communities by the security agents was not a guarantee that the worst could not happen.

He said: “I have already taken my wives and children to safer areas in the metropolis because once the gunmen clash with the JTF, anybody could be hit by stray bullets or victims of possible bomb blasts.”

It was learnt that leaflets were distributed in some of the wards by the group, where it ordered residents to vacate them before its members carry out their attacks.

There were reports of shoot-outs between the gunmen and security forces in some of the wards yesterday.

According to a resident, “there was fighting between men of the JTF and some gunmen in Budum adjourning the four affected wards. It appears there are casualties on both sides but I don’t know how many people were injured or killed.”

When contacted, spokesman of the JTF, Lt.-Col. Sagir Musa, said there was “no cause for alarm.” He said the blockage of the road was temporary and was meant to protect the people in the metropolis.

Musa urged the people to go about their normal businesses as the JTF had taken more steps to protect them.

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