Member of the violent Islamic sects, Boko Haram, on Monday attacked Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capital towns of troubled Borno and Yobe states, and killed several people.
The insurgents also sacked police stations in the towns and shot at a Nigerian Air Force jet even as they attempted to take over the Government House in Damaturu.
But the military reportedly put up a fierce battle to avoid losing the seat of power to the insurgents. And Governor Ibrahim Gaidam later issued a statement to commend the gallantry of the soldiers for successfully defending the Government House.
In the attacks on the two state capitals, six were said to have been killed in Maiduguri where female suicide bombers attacked shops in the Monday Market while the casualty figure for Damaturu, where insurgents reportedly fired consistently for hours, was not known as of the time of this report.
In Damaturu, the insurgents attacked a police station and opened fire on an air force fighter jet circling the attacked area, witnesses said.
The insurgents, sources told our correspondent, had arrived in the Yobe State capital as early as 4.00am from Gujba and that they started shooting sporadically as soon as they entered the city thus forcing many residents to flee into the bushes.
Many residents of the town in areas such as Pawari and Byepass immediately abandoned their abodes and fled.
Gujba is in the south-eastern part of the town.
A security source who preferred anonymity said the insurgents, numbering over one hundred, attacked the Police Mobile Unit where they exchanged gunfire with the police on duty and succeeded in sending the policemen away.
The administrative block of the Yobe State University and that of the state radio corporation and the Police Mobile Base, all located along the path of the insurgents were said to have been set ablaze.
The witness said, “The military jet has to be deployed to push the insurgents back as the situation is now under control and the entire town has been cordoned off.
“The casualties cannot be counted for now but it is massive; the insurgents were overwhelmed and they suffered a lot of death but few police officers and civilians were also killed in the crossfire.”
In the Maiduguri attack, six persons were killed, including the two female suicide bombers who detonated explosive devices at the popular Monday Market.
Witnesses and security sources said the first explosion occurred around 11:20am at one of the entrances of the market when a female suicide bomber, who refused to submit herself for security check, detonated the explosives strapped to her body.
Three persons and the suicide bomber were said to have died in the first explosion.
“She (the female suicide bomber) refused to submit herself to members of the civilian JTF who were conducting checks at the market and therefore detonated the explosives on her,” a witness told our correspondent.
Another eyewitness said, “The youth vigilante pushed her aside telling her to leave the market if she was not ready to be checked and it was at this time the bomb on her exploded, tearing her into pieces and cutting off the arm of the Civilian JTF.”
Just as this was happening, a second female suicide bomber ran into a shop and was dragged out by the shop owners and in the process the bomb on her exploded, claiming her life and that of the unfortunate shop owner.
“She ran into a shop with the explosives on her and while the shop owner was dragging her out, a bomb exploded on her,” a security source said.
The incident caused panic in the metropolis as parents rushed to fetch their children from schools while businesses promptly shut their doors.
The security source told our correspondent further that “one of the female suicide bombers arrested revealed to the youth vigilante group that there were 52 female suicide bombers currently prowling the Maiduguri Township.
He said the female suicide bombers were specially commissioned to attack high density areas in the town.
Analysts believed on Monday that the attack on Damaturu and Yobe represented a total breakdown of law and order in the North-East as the insurgents had hitherto raided remote and unmanned villages and communities.
A resident of Damaturu, who spoke to our correspondent on the phone, said, “We were woken up by sound of gunshots and explosions and up till now (8:30am) we cannot leave our homes as we are still hearing gunshots though less deafening than about two hours ago.
“Everyone is indoor and our children are all at home with us, no one dares go out.”
In Damaturu, the insurgents while shouting “Allahu Akbar” reportedly moved towards the Government House in an apparent effort to take over the seat of government
But the Yobe State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, later issued a statement, asking the people of the state to be vigilant and fish out any member of the dreaded sect that might be hiding among them.
The governor in the statement by his spokesman, Mallam Abdullahi Bego, on Monday afternoon, said, “Early this morning, insurgents and terrorists suspected to be members of Boko Haram launched attacks on Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
“His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, who is on official assignment to Abuja at the moment, was briefed on the situation by heads of the law enforcement agencies on the ground in Damaturu.
“The governor has condemned the attack as heinous and barbaric. He has also expressed appreciation to the security forces who worked very hard on the ground and from the air to repel the attack and force many of the attackers to flee. As a result of their efforts, Damaturu remains firmly under government control.
“The governor has also been told that the security effort is still ongoing. Security agents will continue to track and pursue any remnants of the attackers who might still be hiding in town.”
Gaidam asked the residents of Damaturu and other towns in the state to continue to remain vigilant and pray to Almighty Allah for His intervention, insisting that the prayers offered so far have been “significant to the success that the security forces recorded today.”
He also directed hospital authorities to provide adequate support to innocent victims of the attack.
A military source said if the military had not put up a determined fight, the insurgents had planned to take over the military and security facilities in the town thus the control of ammunition and machinery deployed in the state to fight the insurgents.
Friday last week, insurgents blasted the Kano Central Mosque where the Emir of Kano normally led the Jamaat prayer, killing no fewer than 120 persons with over 200 sustaining injuries.