14th January, 2015
Nigeria’s military on Wednesday said that soldiers had repelled a new Boko Haram attack after a two-hour gun battle in the restive northeast.
The country’s defence headquarters said in a series of tweets that the militants had been pushed back from Biu, in Borno State, and two anti-aircraft guns had been captured.
“Troops in pursuit of fleeing terrorists as mopping up operation is ongoing. Five terrorists have so far been captured,” it said.
Residents in town, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of the state capital, Maiduguri, told AFP scores of militant fighters stormed the town in 10 pick-up trucks at about 7:30 am (0630 GMT).
But they were intercepted by soldiers from a nearby barracks, leading to a two-hour gunfight.
“Soldiers opened fire on three pick-up vans carrying the gunmen that came as an advance party while the rest remained at a fuel station in Kigir village,” said resident Babagana Haruna.
“There were 10 gunmen in each vehicle and all of them were killed in the rain of bullets from the soldiers,” he claimed, although there was no independent verification of the death toll.
The Islamists’ apparent target was the town’s military base, residents said.
The remaining insurgents then arrived at the scene in vans and motorcycles and 10 more were killed, said resident Awwalu Yusuf.
Civilian vigilantes and soldiers pursued the militants into the bush and youths armed with makeshift weapons set up barricades across the town to prevent them from returning.
Biu is a religiously mixed town and the largest in southern Borno. It has been largely spared Boko Haram attacks on nearby villages in the past two years.
Boko Haram on January 3 carried out what is feared to be the worst atrocity in the six-year insurgency, when they attacked the town of Baga in the far north of Borno.
The military claimed this week that 150 people were killed but eye-witnesses and local officials report that hundreds, if not more, lost their lives.
Both claims are impossible to verify, with Boko Haram reportedly still in control of the town.