Boko Haram extremists have struck the north-east Nigerian city of Maiduguri with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers, according to witnesses.
At least 15 people have been killed in the attack by the radical Islamic group on Sunday but the toll was feared many times higher, Associated Press reported.
Militants firing indiscriminately from the back of three trucks attacked the village of Dawari on the outskirts of Maiduguri, which is the birthplace of Boko Haram.
Soldiers engaged them, the reports said, and as people were fleeing a woman ran into a neighbouring area yelling “Boko Haram, Boko Haram”. When people gathered, she detonated herself, according to witness Bulama Isa.
A rocket-propelled grenade then exploded, setting alight grass-thatched huts, while a second woman blew herself up, according to Isa.
A village chief, 10 of his children and others were killed in Dawari, according to residents Ahmed Bala and Umar Ibrahim.
“The troops laid ambush on the terrorists’ suspected routes … The suicide bombers were intercepted in three different locations approaching the city,” PR Nigeria said, quoting the military.
The area is close to Giwa barracks, a major military base attacked several times in the past by the extremists. In January 2014, Boko Haram attacked the base and freed hundreds of detainees. Nigeria’s military is accused of killing thousands of detainees there, by human rights groups.
The attack comes just days before president Muhammadu Buhari’s self-imposed deadline to stamp out the group expires on December 31, and in the same week that he said Nigeria has “technically” defeated the jihadists.
Nigerian troops have won back territory from Boko Haram, but two attacks launched by the militants within the space of three days have called into question Buhari’s claim.
Attacking astride bicycles, Boko Haram invaded Kimba village in Borno state on Christmas Day evening, killing at least 14 residents and torching their homes.
The insurgents have also carried out deadly cross-border raids in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, fuelling fears that the hardline Muslim movement is growing into a regional jihadist threat.
Omolara Adegoke- Abuja
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