The Yobe state government has slammed an absolute curfew on the state following Monday’s fierce battle between security forces and attackers suspected to be members of the terrorist Boko Haram Sect.
“In view of the prevailing security situation in the state capital, (the governor) has approved the immediate imposition of a 24-hour curfew within Damaturu metropolis,” a government statement said on Tuesday.
Before the curfew, the streets of Damaturu remained empty from the previous night. Rescue officials and resident are holed up in their homes as they fear the streets are too unsafe for civilians.
“We have been holed up in the hospital since yesterday. We can’t leave because it is not safe to go out.
“The morgue is empty now although there are dead bodies on the street,” an official, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
Damaturu, the Yobe state capital in Nigeria’s north east, is the second stronghold of the Boko Haram sect and has suffered on of the sect’s deadliest attacks.
In May, up to 60 cattle traders were massacred in Potiskum, the second largest city in the state.
While the attack raged in Damaturu for the better part of Monday evening, explosions were also reported in the prison area of Potiskum.
Meanwhile, a resident of Damaturu told us the battle began
as a result of an attempt by unknown gunmen to rescue one of them that was shot and arrested by a military patrol team.
The man was said to have been arrested by the soldiers after they were alerted that some suspicious men were at the residence of a retired police commissioner.
“The men came to the house but were told the owner was not around, but somebody suspects that they were there for a sinister motive and alerted the joint task force,”a source in Damaturu said.
He also added that when the soldiers arrived,they tried to arrest the men, but one of them had a gun with him and he engaged the soldiers in a gun fight which led to his being shot in the leg.
The source said the soldiers decided to take the injured man to the hospital, but unknown to them, the gunmen were not alone as many more were already all over the area planning what looked like a coordinated attack.
“The soldiers were attacked by these gunmen on their way to the hospital and they started detonating the bombs they have already planted,”our source added.
As a result of the gunfight,health workers at the General Hospital were said to have refused to accept the injured gunman for fear of turning the hospital into a “war zone’.
The source added that both the attackers and the soldiers got reinforcements leading to an all-night gun and bomb battle.
Residents of Damaturu are still trapped in their homes as, according to a source at the hospital, they could still hear ” the sound of gunshots very close to the hospital gate”.
Another resident who spoke to us via the telephone in a very low tone despite being in his house said ” we are all afraid to go out because all one hears is gun shots and you don’t know where it is coming. from”.
None of those who spoke to us could confirm whether the personal residence of the governor was torched as being speculated, although one said he was sure a school in the Sabon Pegi area was badly affected.
Efforts to reach the commander of the joint task force,JTF, in the state, a Colonel Abulsalam, were unsuccessful.