•Lieutenant killed, 2 other soldiers injured in bomb blast
•10 killed, 100 buildings destroyed, as soldiers fight back
From TIMOTHY OLA, Maiduguri
An early morning bomb explosion targeted at a patrol vehicle of the Joint Task Force (JTF) yesterday in Maiduguri by suspected Boko Haram members killed a military officer while two other soldiers were seriously injured. No fewer than10 people were also said to have died in the sporadic gunshots and confusion that followed the blast.
The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) buried on the highway along the popular Lagos Street near the NUJ Press Centre went off at about 7.15am yesterday while a JTF patrol van drove past, killing a lieutenant in front of the vehicle and injuring two soldiers.
The soldiers were said to be in critical condition. Few minutes later, another bomb went off in a residential apartment facing the spot of the first blast. Military sources said a middle-aged man who was believed to be coupling the IED died immediately.
The JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement, however, said two soldiers were injured. “It is feared that two soldiers sustained injury,” he claimed. Angered by the incessant killing of their men and officers including that of last week on the same Lagos Street, soldiers fired shots sporadically in the area particularly Gwange Ward adjacent to the scene of the blast. Over 100 houses, shopping malls and offices were set ablaze while thousands of residents in the area were displaced. Gwange is believed to be one of the flash points of the Boko Haram activities in the city.
Heavy shootings were witnessed in the city yesterday as most residents remained in door on the first day of the week. Many of the staff of the University of Maiduguri and its Teaching Hospital (UMTH) could not access their places of work as Lagos Street was impassable. Lagos Street was immediately cordoned off by the JTF and remained so at the time of filing this report yesterday evening. More soldiers were also deployed in the area. Sources in the JTF hinted that soldiers were angered because “they believed many residents were aiding the activities of the sect.
“We have issued several warnings to residents not to allow their residences and business centres to be used to launch attack against us or innocent citizens but they have refused to listen. They killed our officer same way they did last when they even had the effontery to burn the corpse of the officer,” a JTF personnel told Daily Sun on condition of anonymity.
As at the time of the visit yesterday evening, Gwange and Lagos Street looked like a community just ravaged by war as smoke billowed from many houses from the Lagos Street Bridge down to NUJ Junction. Many of the residents, mostly women and children as well as few elderly men were seen outside watching the places, which used to be their abode in ruins.
A woman, who could not hide her frustration claimed her father, a blind man, was shot by soldiers in the ensuing confusion which followed the explosion. “They killed my father and I don’t even know where my husband is now,” she lamented. Reacting after inspecting the area, the state Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha said the reaction that greeted the killing of the soldier was expected but appealed for caution. “What do you expect when you kill a soldier?
But then I wish to appeal to the Boko Haram members to lay down their arms because if they say they are fighting for the sake of Allah, people are suffering and if they say they are fighting for people, our people are still suffering. Just see what they have put people into now. It is really sad,” he added. He said government would assess the extent of loss by the people and see how they could be assisted.
Meanwhile, heavy security was beefed up around residences and construction site of Chinese in the city yesterday following the killing of one of their colleagues and his aide at Gubio, North of Borno. The cook of the Chinese was reportedly gunned down by suspected Boko Haram men on Saturday afternoon at Gubio while returning from the local market. Both the JTF and the police did not confirm the story despite several calls and SMSs to the spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa and the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Abdullahi Yuguda yesterday.