Suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked Damaturu, the Yobe State capital on Friday where they met a fierce fightback by the Nigerian troops.
Gunshots and explosions rocked different parts of town as the insurgents charged into the city in apparent reprisal attack for a raid of one of the militants stronghold.
According to reports, the attack started around 6:00 pm at Gujba Road, but details were still sketchy as at the time of filing this report.
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed the city shouting Allah Akbar, firing indiscriminately, but were intercepted by soldiers.
The clash with troops came nearly a week after Boko Haram fighters captured the strategic town of Baga and overran the headquarters of a multinational regional force in the north of neighbouring Borno state.
More than 150 people were killed on December 1 when Boko Haram launched a massive attack on Damaturu. Thirty-eight police officers were among the dead after their base in the Gujba Road area was targeted.
Boko Haram, which has seized dozens of towns and villages in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states in the last six months, is in control of territory south of Damaturu in and around the town of the Buni Yadi.
In the latest attack, troops disrupted the insurgents’ advance at Nyanya, on the outskirts of the city, near the state-run Yobe State University.
“The Boko Haram gunmen are now locked in gun battle with soldiers not far from us,” student Mukhtar Sani was quoted as saying.
There was no immediate indication of casualties or confirmation from the authorities but residents from others parts of the city moved indoors as the crackle of gunfire and explosions was heard.
“All the streets are deserted. Everybody has moved indoors and all we hear are sounds of gunfire,” said Aishatu Bala, who lives on the nearby Obasajo housing estate.
Friday evening’s attack was in apparent reprisal for a raid on Tuesday by civilian vigilantes and local hunters on a Boko Haram enclave in Gujba, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Damaturu.
Several militants were killed and weapons seized, according to a security source in the city.
Hours after the raid, Boko Haram launched an offensive on Kadarko village, 20 kilometres away, slaughtering 25 people and abducting women before burning the entire village, according to local vigilante sources.
A team of hunters lunched attack on the insurgents last Tuesday when they killed some and recovered arms and ammunitions during the evening raid. Ali Goni, who is a resident at Nyanya, said security forces had engaged the Boko Haram fighters and dislodged them from the area.”Soldiers are giving a good fight, but they are advancing toward the heart of the town,” Goni said.
Boko Haram had launched a heavy attack on the Yobe State capital on December 1 last year, targeting the government house but were successfully repelled by the Nigerian military.