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Thousands flee home as Boko Haram invade Maiduguri

Thousands of Maiduguri residents fled their homes after suspected Boko Haram terrorists invaded the city on Thursday evening.

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Riding in large utility vehicles and on motorbikes, the insurgents stormed parts of Maiduguri, including Polo General Area through Molai axis unchallenged at about 5:25pm.

They shot sporadically for an hour unhindered.

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Residents said Nigerian troops ran from their duty posts instead of defending women and children fleeing for their lives.

Njunmari resident, Abdul Manga, lamented that the soldiers didn’t respond immediately to the attack.

"It all started at about 5:25pm. We started hearing heavy gun shots; we thought it was military so it became heavier; I left my house when I saw soldiers running away from insurgents direction, in fact I board the same Keke NAPEP with one of the soldiers because there pandemonium everywhere.

"Thousands of women, children and aged persons were seen crying and trekking from Polo towards Old GRA, Damboa Road and Madinagari area.

"There was gridlock at the metropolis as a result of the crowds, to me it was bad experience," Abubakar lamented.

Another resident, Muhammed Baba, said military response was late after the attackers had come and gone.

"It was unbelievable that insurgents could enter Maiduguri and go back unchallenged. The most annoying part is that they prevented us from entering our area to evacuate our families, As I am speaking with you, I didn’t see my wife and 4 children, I have tried her lines, all switched off.

"I can’t say anything about casualties figure or the magnitude of damage until we return homes tomorrow and reunite with our families.

"But something must be done to avert recurrence of the invasion and those needing to be punished must not be spared.  The military started opening fire 6:47pm after the insurgents have left the area, to me the damage has been done already," Muhammed stated.

The attack drove transporters and motorists into homes, and in addition military blockades later cut off movement.

Thousands of residents unable to reach their homes and relatives slept in the open on street sidewalks in areas such as Damboa Road, Post Office, Circular Junction and Shehu Laminu Way.

Daily Trust reporter visiting Polo area was asked to go back by fierce looking soldiers at Circular Junctions at about 6:35pm.

He sighted a large number of residents trekking with bags on their heads.

However, the troops started firing artillery guns and mortar at 6:47pm in Molai and lasted till 8:13pm.

In the confusion, the army issued a statement asking the public not to panic and "to discountenance rumours of Boko Haram presence."

"You are further enjoined  enjoined to please remain at home and be vigilant. The security situation in Maiduguri is under control," Colonel Kingsley Samuel, deputy director Army public relations, said in a statement.

Another statement from Operation Lafiya Dole Task Force celebrated that it successfully repelled Boko Haram incursion into Jidari Polo area of Maiduguri.

Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole with the support of the Air Task Force, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies including the Civilian Joint Task Force quickly mobilised to the area and cleared the terrorists’ incursion, it read.

The statement said troops had gone after the terrorists dominated the area and are patrolling Jidari.

It said residents who have fled the area are free to return to their homes.

"They are further encouraged to report any suspicious persons to security agencies currently patrolling the area," said Maj-Gen Rogers Nicholas, theatre commander of Operation Lafiya Dole.

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