Daring Boko Haram insurgents on Monday night advanced towards Damaturu, the Yobe State capital but were halted by ground troops and fighters of the Nigerian Air Force.
Few hours before the incident, another batch of insurgents launched a vicious attack on Jakana in the Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State.
Eleven elderly people were among the 40 victims that died in the attack, the fourth in the last three days in Borno State.
Military sources and eyewitnesses made these known to our correspondents just as it was gathered that many residents of Benisheik and Muna in Borno State fled their homes following threats by Boko Haram to attack their two communities on Tuesday night.
It was learnt that the insurgents suffered heavy casualties in the operation described as one of the most successful outings of the Air Force since the commencement of the campaign against Boko Haram.
“On Monday night, they attempted to attack Damaturu; they were advancing towards the city when they were sighted but soldiers and Air Force fighters countered them.
‘Several of them were killed in that fight and a security personnel was also shot to death.
“The Air Force did very well; I think that is one of the best battles of the Air Force since this thing (campaign against terrorists) started.”
The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that the insurgents stormed Jakana around 11.30pm on Monday and had fierce gunfight with troops mostly drawn from the 7th Infantry Division.
The terrorists were however said to have succeeded in burning down the village and the only police station on the Maiduguri/Damaturu highway even though many of them were killed.
It was further gathered that the soldiers seized a Mercedes Benz 9/11 truck abandoned by the insurgents.
Three soldiers were however said to have sustained gunshot wounds while two policemen were shot to death.
A resident, who did not want his name in print, said, “When they (insurgents) came into the town, we thought they were soldiers until they began to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ and spray bullets on everything. Realising that they were Boko Haram people and not soldiers, we took to our heels.”
He added that while they were running, some of them were hit and killed by bullets while some were lucky enough to escape to Maiduguri through the bushes.
Another resident interjected, saying, “I am one of those lucky enough to find myself among others in Maiduguri after running through the bushes. We arrived near the military check- point at Computer Village on the outskirts of Maiduguri.”
As of 9pm on Monday, the official casualty figure could not be ascertained.
Senator Ahmed Zannah, who represents Borno Central, told journalists that the insurgents burnt 11 elderly people to death in some of the houses they set fire on.
He also said that many residents, who got wind of the insurgents’ plan to attack them fled the community.
The lawmaker claimed that soldiers who initially fled on sighting the insurgents later regrouped and confronted them.
According to him, the insurgents retreated but warned that they would return to “finish the unfinished business.”
The threat, he said, made more residents to flee to Maiduguri “out of fear.”
The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, confirmed the attack on Jakana on Monday night in a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents.
Olukolade was, however, silent on the casualty figure.
“It is true that there was an attack on Jakana but I don’t have the details now,” he said.
Investigations also revealed that tension was high in Benisheik and Muna early on Tuesday as Boko Haram was said to have written the residents informing them that their communities were to be attacked at night.
It was learnt that even though the military had placed soldiers on red alert, the residents of the two communities left for safer places.
A source said, “They(Boko Haram) wrote to Muna and Benisheik threatening to attack them this(Tuesday) night. Soldiers are however on the alert.
“But some of the inhabitants of the villages are leaving because they believe the people may come. They don’t want to be there during the fighting.”
The Defence Spokesman also confirmed the arrest of the mastermind of the twin bomb blasts in Bintu Sugar Ngamari, Maiduguri on Saturday.
Olukolade, who had earlier announced the arrest of two suspects, said the interrogation of the mastermind had commenced.
“The mastermind has been arrested; he went in to a coma, but he has been revived, and interrogation has since commenced. He is the one directly responsible for the bomb blasts,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency has said that 55,500 internally displaced persons have been attended to in Borno State since the beginning of this year.
The Information Officer, North-East zonal office of the agency, AbdulKadir Ibrahim, told journalists on Tuesday that most of the displaced persons had shunned camps set up by the agency for them for fear of being attacked by insurgents.
Also on Tuesday, the Catholic Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese, Most Rev. Oliver Dashe Doeme, said that Boko Haram was a product of corruption.
Dashe, who called on government to find ways to end the insurgency, said, “If corruption goes, there will be no Boko Haram, no kidnapping and no armed robbery. Even if they exist, they will be minimal. If Nigerians are empowered, they will not engage in some of these vices.”
He lamented that over 500 members of the church, 20 churches and priests’ apartments had been burnt down since the insurgency began in 2009.
The cleric said, “Though it will be hard to give an accurate figure, I cannot talk of Christians and Muslims but since 2009, we have had over 500 Catholics killed.
“Since 2009, we have been witnessing the senseless and merciless killings of our people, both Christians and Muslims.
“Corruption is number one problem of the nation; the Boko Haram insurgency is a product of corruption. The Federal Government should fight corruption headlong. It is sad that few people are sitting on billions of naira. The youths that are involved in Boko Haram activities could have distanced themselves from it if they were given opportunities.”