More than 200 people died yesterday as Nigeria’s military repelled multiple attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants on a key city in the north-east.
The assault on Maiduguri, state capital of Borno and with a population of around two million, began just after midnight.
A second attempt to take the city’s airport in the afternoon was also repelled.
A raid on the nearby city of Monguno, 140km away, began later in the morning and the town fell under militant control by the late afternoon.
The militants also simultaneously attacked another town, Konduga, which is 40km from Maiduguri, but the military was able to repel the raid.
More than 200 combatants were killed, mainly insurgents, in yesterday’s attacks, according to soldiers and civilian self-defence fighters who counted bodies.
The army’s inability to quash the Sunni jihadist group is a major headache for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in February and who visited the state capital on Saturday as part of his campaign.
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the commercial capital Lagos yesterday to urge the candidates and their supporters to respect the election outcome.
The US fears post-poll violence could destabilise the country and undermine the fight against Boko Haram.
Independent analysts have condemned the government’s tactics against Boko Haram, arguing that they inspire support for a movement driven by joblessness, alienation, ethnic divisions and poor governance.
The five-year insurgency, which aims to carve out an Islamic state in Africa’s most populous country, has cost the lives of thousands of innocent victims.
Nigeria’s defence headquarters tweeted yesterday morning that co-ordinated land and air operations were being used to repel the attacks and a curfew had been imposed on Maiduguri.