By Michael Olugbode with agency reports
Pandemonium broke out yesterday in Damaturu and Potiskum, Yobe State and Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, as residents of the area scampered for safety, following multiple explosions, which rocked the town Thursday.
However, the bomb explosions in Damaturu, which were equally met with sporadic exchange of gunfire between members of Boko Haram and the policemen, was said to have heightened apprehension among the residents less than two days to the celebration of Christmas.
The AFP, however, reported that six blasts and gunfire had hit Maiduguri, according to residents and a military source, after explosions and shooting earlier broke out in Damaturu, with a church also burnt.
It was gathered that the explosions occurred in Pompomari, near the Emir of Damaturu’s Palace, where an accidental blast at a bomb factory on Monday left one member of Boko Haram dead and two injured. Another account claimed that gunshots were heard in Potiskum and fire could be seen in the area of a complex housing a police station, fire station and road safety office, residents said.
In Damaturu, a hospital source said a soldier was killed in the violence. “The dead body of a soldier was brought to us this evening and seven policemen with gunshot wounds," the source said. “A 10-year-old boy was also caught in the shootout. He is now in the theatre undergoing surgery to remove the bullets,” a source said.
However, Yobe State Police Commissioner, where both Damaturu and Potiskum are located, Lawan Tanko, said suspected members of Boko Haram had carried out bombings and shootings in Damaturu. “There have been bomb and shooting attacks by suspected Boko Haram elements. They engaged our men in a shootout and our men have succeeded in repelling their attacks and have pushed them toward Potiskum,”
Tanko said. Tanko said he did not have details on casualties, but added that a church and a military patrol van were burnt. Some residents of Damaturu, who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, said the gun battle was still raging on as at 5.30 p.m. and therefore, were still trapped in their homes, following the shootout between police and Boko Haram members.
The source, who disclosed that the explosions occurred few minutes after 2p.m., said he had remained indoors to the safety of his home since then.
Another resident of the town, who spoke to THISDAY at about 5.40p.m, said: “Damaturu is on fire, we are all in the office as I am talking to you now, we heard the explosions and we could hear gun shots, so there is no way we could venture out of the office, the gun shots were too rapid and people are running helter skelter.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Mr. Abdulkadir Song, confirmed that there were explosions and shooting in Damaturu as he was speaking. “As at the time of filing the report last night, the number of casualties could not be ascertained,” he said. Impeccable sources disclosed that an unconfirmed soldier was shot dead in the battle between Boko Haram and security forces.
As at the time of filing this report, it was still unknown the number of mobile police officers allegedly killed in the exchange of gunfire with the Boko Haram members, while some were currently hospitalised in an undisclosed hospital. A military task force had been deployed to Maiduguri to forestall further breakdown of law and order in the state.
Also, Damaturu was hit by coordinated attacks in early November claimed by Boko Haram, which left some 150 people dead. Earlier this week, blasts at a house in Damaturu rented by suspected members of Boko Haram left one dead and several wounded.