At least 65 people, mostly suspected members of the Boko Haram insurgents, were feared dead in a clash with troops of the 7 Division, Nigerian Army around Ladi Kayamula village, Maiduguri, Borno State, on Wednesday.
Many people also sustained various degrees of injury while trying to flee the scene of the attack.
The Nigerian Army has imposed a 24-hour curfew on the troubled city.
The imposition of the curfew was announced in a statement signed by Col. Tukur Gusau, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations.
Gusau said: “In view of the recent development within Maiduguri metropolis, a 24-hour curfew is hereby imposed in the city. This is done to protect lives and property of innocent and law abiding people of Maiduguri.”
The insurgents launched an attack on the city at about 5p.m on Wednesday.
The attack forced many residents at the outskirts of the city – areas like Giwa Military Barracks, the University of Maiduguri community, 202 and 303 Housing Estates, Dalori Quarters and Molai, among others, to scamper for safety.
The panicked residents attempted to flee into the main town, but were trapped due to roadblocks mounted by the military and men of the Civilian JTF.
Sources told our correspondent that the Boko Haram terrorists attempted to invade the city with heavy weapons, targeting military formations, including the 21 Armoured Brigade (Giwa Barracks).
It was learnt that 35 members of the sect, including women suicide bombers were killed by troops, while 27 residents of Ladi Kayamula and Alau Dam villages were murdered by the insurgents after being repelled by troops.
Mallam Abba Alau, who participated in the mass burial of the slain residents, said after the killing, the terrorists ran towards Sambisa forest.
“We were able to bury the 27 people killed by the terrorists. While fleeing from the military, they ran into our community and wrecked havoc before heading towards Sambisa forest,” he said.
Another source said three members of the security operatives were also killed, with others sustaining injuries when some women suicide bombers, who disguised as fleeing residents of Bale village near Ladi Kayamula detonated explosives close to where troops were operating. This could not be confirmed.
Our correspondent learnt that the imposition of the curfew on Maiduguri and its environs was to allow security operatives trail and apprehend scores of suicide bombers, mostly women, who were believed to have sneaked into the town.
“The curfew was declared because during the operation, many insurgents found at the scene of the attack had Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, tied to their bodies, and that security agencies suspected that some of them might have sneaked into Maiduguri and nobody wants to take chances,” a source said.
Our correspondent also observed that six combatant helicopters have arrived the Maiduguri Air Force Base to be deployed against the insurgents.
The imposition of the dusk to dawn curfew forced students writing their West African Examinations Council, WAEC, examinations to trek long distances to their centres as there were no vehicular movement in and around the metropolis, even as shops, offices, markets remained under lock and key.
Meanwhile, Defence Headquarters, DHQ, yesterday confirmed the return of normalcy to Ladi Kayamla and Maiduguri, saying troops were in full control of the situation.
The DHQ, which confirmed Wednesday’s attack through its Director of Defence Information, DDI, Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said the band of terrorists who detonated two female suicide bombers ahead of their attack on Ladi Kayamla near Maiduguri, was routed by troops in the area.
The attack is being seen as diversionary, with the intention of slowing down the ongoing assault on Sambisa forest and was believed to have been carried out by those escaping from the terrorists’ locations that have been routed or destroyed.
“Normalcy has been restored as the troops conduct a mop up of the area while the offensive on all terrorists forest locations continue,” Olukolade said.