Suspected Boko Haram terrorists stormed barracks in the regional capital of Borno, Maiduguri, on Wednesday night, killing three soldiers and six vigilantes, as well as injuring 12 others who successfully thwarted the attack. It is the most ambitious attempt at storming the city, formerly Boko Haram’s headquarters, since March 14, and has left the city under a 24-hour lockdown.
Reuters reports that the attack began from the inside of a cashew plantation near the Giwa barracks and consisted of both heavy gunfire and explosives. They report that the number of terrorists storming the barracks appeared to be in the “several hundreds,” and by Thursday morning, had been repelled.
Yusuf Sani, a vigilante leader responsible for organizing the counter-attack that saved the barracks, told the BBC that the 12 wounded were hurt by explosives detonated by female suicide bombers, who accompanied the gunmen on the attack. Three Nigerian servicemen and six vigilantes were killed, he said. He did not say how many of the shooters were killed, only claimed that “the terrorists suffered serious casualties.”
Many Boko Haram attacks go undocumented, as those living in remote villages do not have the ability to stop and chronicle their escapes. As Maiduguri is a regional capital, however, residents on Twitter were able to document some of the panic in their flight from the danger areas:
— ali adam (@aliadam123) May 14, 2015
— The WorldPost (@TheWorldPost) May 14, 2015
Vanguard claims the attack concluded when Nigerian soldiers arrived on scene to contain the terrorists, who were “swiftly routed.” It notes there were at least two female suicide bombers on the scene.
Maiduguri’s streets remain deserted, as the government has imposed a 24-hour curfew designed to keep individuals out of the streets and target any potential Boko Haram terrorists attempting an attack. Naij, a Nigerian news outlet, reports that the area where the barracks lie in Maiduguri are close to the Sambisa forest, an area believed to be the last known stronghold of Boko Haram. The Nigerian military has raided several areas controlled by the terrorist group in the forest, and it is believed that terrorists will continue to trickle out into Maiduguri as they are swept out of the forest.
The Giwa barracks were attacked in March; at the time, hundreds of Boko Haram terrorists were being help captive there, and the siege was meant to free them and rehabilitate the group’s numbers. Maiduguri had not been attacked since then, and the operations in the Sambisa forest had reportedly weakened the group sufficiently to keep them from attacking the capital.
The Nigerian military announced major breakthroughs against Boko Haram–which now calls itself the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)–in late April, when security personnel rescued upwards of 700 women and children from the forest who were being held captive by the group. The women, many of whom are pregnant, are believed to be from myriad towns across northeast Nigeria, many of which were completely leveled by Boko Haram after their male population was killed and female population enslaved. Nigerian officials are struggling to find a way to reintegrate the captives into society, particularly those with extensive mental trauma and those from towns and villages that no longer exist.