“No, it was nothing but test firing that was carried out last night.”
Many residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital were forced to keep vigil all Tuesday night as soldiers of the 7 Division, Nigeria Army test-fired new weapons at the outskirts of the troubled city.
Thunderous sounds from what seemed like explosives were accompanied by rapid shooting from machine guns from about 11:30 p.m., a situation that shook the sleep of the eyes of residents who thought it was Boko Haram terrorists attacking the city.
The explosions and shootings lasted for about an hour.
Scared residents spent the night making hushed calls to find out from which direction the shooting was coming, but no one could give definite answers.
Many of those who were forced to wake up could not go back to sleep until early morning Islamic prayer calls from various mosques. .
Some residents said they thought it was the Boko Haram that were finally making their entry into the city, after days of taking over many routes leading to Maiduguri.
On Tuesday, the insurgents reportedly attacked travelers at some spots not more that 40km from Maiduguri, along the Maiduguri-Biu road. They had on Monday bombed a major bridge on that road.
“We thought the Boko Haram gunmen were the ones exchanging fire with soldiers; we were so scared that we had to lay down on the floor all night”, said Abba Ibrahim, a civil servant who resides in the capital.
PREMIUM TIMES later gathered from top military officials who confirmed that it was not an attack but routine weapon test-fire that was being carried out by soldiers.
“No, it was nothing but test firing that was carried out last night”, the military official, who would not want to be quoted as it was not his job to speak to the media, told PREMIUM TIMES on phone.
The military recently announced that it had acquired more sophisticated weapons in its efforts to dislodge the insurgents.
While Maiduguri has witnessed a few attacks this year by the Boko Haram, several other communities in Borno have witnessed series of attacks by the sect.
The Human Rights Watch said in a report that over 2,000 civilians were killed by the insurgents in attacks in the first six months of 2014 with most of such attacks occurring in Borno.
The attacks have continued despite a state of emergency imposed on the state since last year.