Fire razes Maiduguri market
•Casualty figure climbs to 50
•Bomb blast rocks Adamawa
From Michael Olugbode in Damaturu and Matthew Onah in Yola
Guns were still cracking in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, yesterday as the clash between security agents and the terrorist group, Boko Haram, entered its third day.
The reign of terror in the state and the neighbouring Borno State where a market in Maiduguri, the state capital, was also gutted by fire, blighted preparations and celebration of the Christmas holiday in both states.
Residents of Mubi, in Adamawa State, also celebrated Christmas under the shadow of terror as a bomb explosion went off at around noon in the town that is just an hour’s drive from Maiduguri, the epicentre of Boko Haram operations, injuring three persons, including a woman.
Hospital sources, who preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity, said scores of people, including some of the terrorists, soldiers as well as police officers and men, had been killed in the gun duel in Damaturu.
One hospital attendant claimed nine police officers, three soldiers and 16 civilians were brought in dead to a hospital in Damaturu yesterday.
According to hospital records, 33 persons were brought in injured and by yesterday, only 11 persons had been admitted while others had been discharged.
The attendant said it might be difficult to get an accurate casualty figure as some families quietly took their civilian casualties for burial without depositing the bodies at the mortuary.
Noise from sporadic shooting pervaded the atmosphere in Damaturu yesterday as soldiers and the sectarians engaged in gun battles in several parts of the town.
The area mainly affected in yesterday's attack was Pompomari, behind the Emir of Damaturu’s palace, where an accidental explosion caused the death of a sect member on Monday and has been the major battle field between the soldiers and the sectarians since Thursday.
THISDAY gathered that the shootings which subsided on Friday night resumed at about 10 am yesterday following another bomb blast.
The resumption of hostilities forced many people who had gone back to their homes on Friday, in response to an appeal by the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, to scamper out into mosques and schools for safety.
The governor during visits to places where displaced people were taking refuge had assured them that normalcy had returned and they should go back home.
But when THISDAY visited Pompomari yesterday afternoon, it was deserted with mainly livestock seen loitering around.
The only living souls seen were an aged woman and her three little grandchildren who were assisted off the hot spot by officers of the National Emergency Management Agency, who were visiting the town to assess the level of damage.
Many houses were seen razed and scores of other were in flames.
Four pick-up vans and an armoured vehicle belonging to the Nigerian Army were badly damaged.
Other parts of Damaturu remained deserted and just a few vehicles were seen on the roads as people stayed indoors for fear of being caught in the exchange of gunfire.
The roads were patrolled by stern-looking soldiers while military helicopters hovered in the air.
Meanwhile, in Maiduguri which has been under Boko Haram siege for about two years, a raging fire which started in the early hours of yesterday razed one of the town's markets, destroying property whose value is yet to be ascertained.
The inferno, it was gathered, started at close to 2.30 am from the carpenters’ section and spread to other parts of the market.
Some traders alleged that some volunteers who mobilised to put out the inferno were prevented from accessing the market by security forces. “Some people who got knowledge of the fire when it was at its early stage tried to render assistance, but they were prevented from entering the market by some security forces,” a source said.
However, the Joint Task Force spokesman, Lt-Colonel Hassan Ifijeh Mohammed, denied the allegation, describing it as “ridiculous.”
It was also learnt that yesterday’s bomb blast in Mubi, Adamawa State, exploded at Central Hotel mostly frequented by youths, many of whom had arrived home to celebrate the Yuletide season.
Police said the casualty figure would have been higher but for their vigilance, adding that they recovered some improvised explosive devices planted in three places of worship before they exploded.
Adamawa State Police Public Relations Officer, Altine Daniel, said the police had dispatched men of the bomb squad unit to Mubi to ascertain the nature of the blast.
She said the suspicion was that the bombs were planted at night.