They just won’t let up. Boko Haram has attacked Nigeria again, this time they gunned for Maiduguri, a prominent city in Nigeria with a population of over 600,000. It’s being reported that on Sunday hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen launched a predawn attack and were locked in a violent battle with government troops on the outskirts of the city, according to the military, residents and citizen vigilantes. Boko Haram also launched a simultaneous attack on the town of Monguno and were apparently successful in taking control of the town and its military barracks, a Nigerian military officer in Maiduguri told CNN.
The BBC’s Will Ross reported live from Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos:
“People in Maiduguri woke up to the sound of explosions and heavy gunfire as Boko Haram launched a pre-dawn attack on this strategic city. Ground troops, air strikes and local vigilantes managed to stop the jihadists from penetrating the city. Much of the fighting was around a barracks.
In a separate attack the town of Monguno was captured – the latest to be seized by the group. With the insurgents gaining more and more territory Maiduguri is increasingly vulnerable. It is home to tens of thousands of people who have fled their homes because of the conflict.”
“Our soldiers initially repelled the terrorists but they mobilized more fighters and came back in full force. They overwhelmed our troops and forced them to retreat,” said the officer, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Babagana Musa, a Monguno resident who fled to Maiduguri, said, “Several trucks carrying soldiers drove into Maiduguri. We learned the town (Monguno) has been taken over by Boko Haram.” CNN is reporting that Boko Haram have stayed at Baga, a fishing town, since they seized it January 3. They had since been hesitant to move south towards Maiduguri because of the military presence in Monguno until now.
And now that they’ve gained momentum, they’re covering more ground. Boko Haram have even attacked the nearby village of Jintilo and were in a gunbattle with troops stationed there. The village is about three miles from the center of Maiduguri. “All the residents of neighborhoods near Jintilo have fled into the city due to the ongoing battle between troops and Boko Haram gunmen who want to enter the city,” Modu Zannari, who lives nearby, told CNN.
Speaking to reporters Sunday afternoon, Borno Governor Kashim Shettima said, “So long as we have the resources, we will continue to regard the efforts to reclaim peace our number one area of commitments. I want to reassure the good people of Borno State that we will never abdicate from our responsibility as those they entrusted with leadership.”
He further said he had canceled all engagements outside of Borno and intends to “remain behind with our people through thick and thin,” and after meeting with other past and present leaders in Northern Nigeria, “pressures are being combined and channeled to the right authorities to ensure that the insurgency problems are brought to an end as quickly as possible.”
And what about Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan? BBC News reports that Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his election campaign for polls in February. Before these trips his last visit had been in March 2013. Many Nigerian residents have voiced their disgust in Goodluck Jonathan, who’s been more concerned about his campaigns than their lives. His latest visit came after Amnesty International released satellite images of towns attacked by Boko Haram, showing damage to an estimated 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed in Baga and neighboring Doron Baga at the beginning of the year, the human rights group tells BBC News. Many American media outlets reported that Boko Haram massacred over 2,000 people, but it’s being reported that the toll is up to 150.
According to BBC, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Nigeria has coincided with these violent Boko Haram attacks. He has come to call for peaceful elections next month which need to set “a new standard.” Kerry urged President Goodluck Jonathan and the main opposition’s presidential candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, not to condone violence during what is expected to be a tense election campaign. “We are prepared to do more [to counter the Boko Haram threat] but our ability to do more will depend to some degree on the full measure of credibility, accountability, transparency and peacefulness of this election,”Kerry said.