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May 14, 2015 6:16 AM

Boko Haram attacks Maiduguri, army repels but hundreds flee

The Associated Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) Hundreds of Boko Haram extremists tried to attack the biggest army base in northeast Nigeria overnight but met fierce resistance from soldiers who fired artillery throughout the night.

Booming cannon and whooshing rockets woke people living around Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the northeast's biggest city. Hundreds fled though some were returning home Thursday morning.

The army imposed a 24-hour curfew amid fears some insurgents have slipped through trenches and sand walls constructed to prevent a motorized assault after a Feb. 1 offensive in which the Islamic extremists attacked Maiduguri from four fronts.

The curfew is "to protect lives and property of innocent and law-abiding people of Maiduguri," said a statement from Col. Tukur Gusau, spokesman for the army's 7th Division that is leading the fight against Boko Haram.

Soldiers engaged hundreds of militants in the outlying village of Kayamla, according to a civilian defense fighter, Ibrahim Musa.

"Many of them (Boko Haram) were killed outside the trenches while some fled back. We were with the soldiers during the attack and I was shocked to see that Boko Haram could be in such large numbers," Musa told The Associated Press.

A multinational force and Nigerian troops forced the extremists from all towns and cities in the northeast in a 14-week-long offensive that Nigerian officials say has the militants hemmed into the Sambisa Forest, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Maiduguri.

The city has suffered through many attacks, including a March 14, 2014 assault in which Boko Haram invaded Giwa Barracks and freed hundreds of detainees. More than 600 people were killed that day, most of them freed and unarmed detainees gunned down by Nigerian troops.

Maiduguri used to be a city where people didn't lock the doors to their homes. Its population of 2 million has been swelled by more than 300,000 refugees.

More than 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes, some across borders, during the nearly 5-year-old Islamic insurgency. Last year was the bloodiest, with some 10,000 people killed, according to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.


Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.


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