Nigerian military defends city from Boko Haram

Islamist insurgent group attacked Gombe in northeast during run-up to elections

File photograph of Nigerian soldiers. The Nigerian army has defended the city of Gombe from an attack by Boko Haram militants. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

File photograph of Nigerian soldiers. The Nigerian army has defended the city of Gombe from an attack by Boko Haram militants. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

 

Nigeria’s military has defended the city of Gombe in the northeast of the country from an attack by Boko Haram militants.

A group of militants assaulted Gombe before engaging in heavy fighting with the army. Two air force jets also attacked the insurgents.

The Boko Haram fighters left in a convoy of vehicles carrying dozens of corpses, according to residents.

“They were heard telling our people in the villages leading to Gombe that they have not come to harm civilians but the security agents. They were also dropping copies of papers with messages written in Hausa warning people not to participate in the coming elections, lest they risk being killed,” said resident Malam Hassan.

The message warns that Boko Haram fighters will attack all polling stations during the March 28th elections. The paper also said residents should not assist the army and pledged that fighters would not attack those who stayed out of its fight against the government.

The message said: “We are calling on you all to come and join us in the jihad and embrace Islamic Sharia jurisprudence.”

The fiercest fighting was about two miles outside Gombe, according to residents.

Gombe had previously been attacked multiple times, including a car bomb in December that killed at least 20 people.

Boko Haram’s insurgency killed 10,000 people last year, compared to 2,000 total in the previous four years, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations. Fighting has forced some 157,000 people to seek refuge in Niger, while 40,000 have gone to Cameroon and 17,000 are in Chad, according to the United Nations.

Chad attack

On Friday, the group staged its first attack on Chadian territory, bringing to three the number of neighbouring countries targeted in what had previously been an internal Nigerian conflict. The targeted village, Ngouboua, was already home to nearly 3,300 refugees who had fled Boko Haram-related violence in Nigeria, according to the UN.

Cameroon and Niger have also been attacked. All three have vowed to contribute to a regional force against Boko Haram that is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.