KANO – (AFP) – Gunfire and explosions rocked the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu on Saturday as security forces launched a pre-emptive offensive against Boko Haram Islamists.
The offensive followed intelligence that the extremist group planned to attack the city again, said the deputy police spokesman of Yobe state, of which Damaturu is the capital.
“Security operatives were able to discover a plan by Boko Haram hoodlums to launch attacks in the city,” said Gbadegesin Toyin.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) military unit “located their positions… they cordoned off these positions and engaged the gunmen in a shootout,” he 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 violence was most heavily concentrated in the Nyanya and Obasanjo Estates areas of the city.
“Explosions and gunshots have been going on in this neighbourhood (Nyanya) for over an hour,” said Abdullahi Musa, a civil servant.
Another resident offered a similar account.
“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,” said Safiya Mahmud, a housewife, earlier.
Nigerian authorities on June 19 slapped a round-the-clock curfew on Damaturu, after suspected Boko Haram Islamists launched coordinated gun attacks on targets around the city.
The curfew was partially relaxed two days later after soldiers and police reclaimed control of the streets in an offensive that left at least 40 people dead, including 34 alleged Boko Haram members.
The ban on movements was further eased on Monday, but Damaturu residents are still forced to remain in their homes between 6:00 pm and 7:00 am.