Members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, on Monday attacked the Maiduguri International Airport and the Composite Group Air Force Base in Maiduguri, where no fewer than 20 military men were killed.
The group also attacked a newly constructed trailer park and residential buildings in the Borno State capital. The attackers, it was learnt, carried out the carefully planned operations around 3am on Monday.
The militants were said to have planted and detonated multiple Improvised Explosive Devices around the targets.
The sect members were said to have attacked the residential areas not far from the Air Force Base, which forced the military men to come out of the cantonment, giving another group of the suspected terrorists the opportunity to attack the base and other vulnerable targets.
The insurgents were said to have planted IEDs at strategic parts of the airport, which they exploded in the facility said to have been under heavy security protection.
The government of Borno State imposed a 24-hour curfew on Maiduguri, the state capital, according to Baba Ahmed Jidda, a spokesman for the state government of Borno State.
The military has periodically imposed curfews on Maiduguri, birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency that is the gravest threat to Africa’s top oil producer. But it is rare for the state government to make such an announcement.
Nigerian defense headquarters spokesman Brigadier General Chris Olukolade later said in a statement that security forces had repelled attacks by “daring terrorists”.
“Military locations such as Nigerian Air Force Base and some Nigerian Army locations in Maiduguri were targeted,” he said.
Three disused aircraft and two helicopters were damaged. Flights to and from Maiduguri airport, which is near the air force base, had been disrupted but had now resumed, he said.
“My family and I could not sleep till daybreak because the shooting continued till about 8 a.m.,” Haruna Ali told Reuters at the scene, where Borno state governor Kassim Shettima was surveying the aftermath of the violence.
“We are going to replace all buildings destroyed by the insurgents even if they destroy them a hundred times,” Shettima declared, walking past a burnt-out fuel truck. “I know we shall overcome … the Satanic ideology of this group.”
In May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno and two other states, ordering an all-out offensive against the Islamist group fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country is split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.
Nigeria has used air power to bomb suspected Boko Haram bases, including a strike on Friday that the military said might have killed more than 50 insurgents in one of their main bases in Gwoza.
Initially the offensive appeared to temper the violence as soldiers wrested back control of towns, cities and stretches of semi-desert in the northeast from the militants.
But Boko Haram’s fighters have survived many assaults during the 4-1/2-year-old insurgency. After retreating this year to remoter areas, including the forested Gwoza hills near Cameroon, they have mounted deadly counter-attacks and stepped up killings of civilians they accuse of collaborating with the authorities.