Location of Maiduguri in Nigeria. (Google Maps)

Abuja. Nigerian army troops fought off several armed attacks on the large northeastern city of Maiduguri on Sunday, according to military sources.

The city was stormed by suspected Boko Haram militants around 9 AM when shelling and military helicopters were heard flying over. A new attack against the airport occurred in the afternoon after a period of calm. Medical sources reported that at least eight people were killed and 27 others, mostly civilians, had been wounded. Both attempts were repelled by coordinated efforts of Nigerian air and land military units, resulting in “scores” of insurgents killed. However, an indefinite curfew was imposed.

Maiduguri is a large city of two million people and capital of the restive Borno state. Along with neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states, the province has experienced violence as a result of Boko Haram’s push to create an Islamic state. Maiduguri itself has suffered repeated raids: dozens were killed when the group attempted to enter the city in December 2013, while an attack on Giwa barracks in March 2014 resulted in the escape of hundreds of imprisoned BH members. However, the military later re-arrested and executed 600 of them.

Boko Haram also raided Konduga and Monguno, smaller towns respectively 40 and 140 kilometres north of Maiduguri. While the army managed to repulse the insurgents at Konduga, security forces were reportedly overpowered at Monguno and the settlement was captured by the group. The attack there began around 3:30 AM and many residents were killed by gunfire and explosives.

The offensive came shortly before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Sunday visit to Nigeria, who is there to urge presidential candidates and their supporters to respect the outcome of  the coming general election. It will be held on 14 February and could see destabilisation of the country as current President Goodluck Jonathan’s efforts to handle the insurgency have largely failed. They also follow Boko Haram’s deadliest massacre yet, which resulted in the death of as much as 2,000 civilians in the northeastern town of Baga in early January.

(Reuters, BBC)

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