By KINGSLEY OMONOBI, BEN AGANDE & NDAHI MARAMA
Scores were feared dead, yesterday, when members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, attacked 79 Composite Group Air Force Base, Maiduguri International Airport and some Army locations in Borno State.
There were conflicting reports as to the casualty figures. While eyewitnesses said they saw five military vehicles conveying the bodies of dead security personnel to the hospital, the military reported that two of its officers were injured, while 24 terrorists were killed.
Meanwhile, a 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Maiduguri.
President Goodluck Jonathan, in reaction, summoned an emergency security meeting of the Service Chiefs.
The meeting was attended by the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd); Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim; Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Azubike Ihejirika and Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh.
There was no statement at the end of the meeting held in the office of the President at the Presidential Villa, but the Chief of Defense Staff who initially refused to talk to newsmen, later said that the situation was being managed. He then entered his car and drove off.
Unconfirmed reports had it that over 20 security operatives were killed, while two helicopters at the NAF Base and some parts of the staff quarters were burnt.
The Defence Headquarters however said 24 members of the insurgents had been killed, while two air force personnel were injured.
Confirming the development in a statement entitled Daring Terrorists Attack Military Locations in Maiduguri, the Defence Headquarters through the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, said: “Nige-rian Security Forces today (yesterday) repelled a pre-dawn attack on Maiduguri by suspected terrorists.
“Military locations such as Nigerian Air Force Base and some Nigerian Army locations in Maiduguri were targeted during the attack.
24 insurgents dead— Army
“Three decommissioned military aircrafts as well as two helicopters were incapacitated in the course of the attack.
“Two Air Force personnel were also wounded, while 24 insurgents died during the exchange of fire.
“Security forces are in pursuit of the terrorists in the Djemtillo general area along the Maiduguri/Banishek axis. Movements in Maiduguri and environs have been restricted.
“Citizens are enjoined to report any of the fleeing insur-gents, most of who could be identified with gunshot wounds whenever they are sighted.
“Meanwhile, normal flights operations to and from the Maiduguri Airport, which were earlier temporarily disrupted have resumed.”
Also, the Borno State government, yesterday, ordered the imposition of a 24-hours curfew on Maiduguri.
A statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Jidda, announced the curfew.
It said the curfew was imposed in consultation with the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri.
The statement added that “during the period of curfew, government pleads with all citizens to remain calm.
“Only vehicles on emergency calls and essential services are allowed to move, while the curfew will be lifted as soon as situation improves.”
It was gathered that the incident, which started at about 3a.m. shocked the whole city as sporadic gunshots and other rocket-propelled launchers sounds were heard all over the town, with aircraft hovering around Maiduguri and Jere metropolis throughout the night up to 8a.m.
Sources said that during the attacks on the air force base and other places, including the Maiduguri International Airport, several people were killed as the terrorists, numbering over 300, planted explosives in some targeted areas in the state capital.
Also attacked were the newly constructed trailer parks along Damaturu-Maiduguri Road, military check points and other residential and public buildings, which according to the sources led to the death of many people.
An eyewitness, who resides in Gomari Airport area, just few metres away to the air force base, said: “I saw five military opera-tion vehicles conveying dead bo-dies to the hospital at about 6a.m.
“The dead bodies were suspected to be security agencies killed in the attack.”
It was also gathered that, with the assistance of airstrikes by military troops, over 100 terrorists were killed.
Gov Shettima reacts
Governor Kashim Shettima who visited the affected areas, assured that the state government will not be deterred in its effort to secure the lives and property of its citizens.
While briefing Governor Kashim Shettima, who visited the 333 Mini Barracks, a military officer said: “The terrorists attacked the barracks with sophisticated weapons including armoured tanks, anti-aircrafts vehicles and motorcycles.
“They went away with nine vehicles belonging to the Department of State Services, DSS, while seven security men were seriously injured including an SSS officer in the attack.”
He, however, told the governor that he was not sure if some of those injured and were taken to hospital for treatment will survive, due to the nature of the injuries.
Also, briefing the governor at the Divisional Police Head-quarters, the DPO, said the whole building including offices and the cells were completely razed as he had to order his men to take cover due to the superior fire power of the terrorists.