By Duku Joel, Damaturu and Joseph Abiodun, Maiduguri/The NationThirteen people died yesterday in gun battles in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and Damaturu, the Yobe State capital. The two cities are in the northeast, hotbed of the fundamentalist group Boko Haram .
Men of the sect and the Joint Task Force (JTF)) clashed in Maiduguri after a suicide attack was foiled.
The clash ground the city as civil servants fled their offices.
A suicide bomber, a passerby and two sect members died.
In Damturu, a clash of two gangs left nine people dead. A source said the sect was going after impostors.
The gangs of gunmen clashed at Nayi-Nawa, one of the trouble spots in the town.
Yobe Police spokesman Toyin Gbadegesin, who confirmed the incident, said the police were alerted by the ward head of the area and the bodies were deposited at the mortuary.
Gbadegesin said the affected persons are within ages 18-25 bracket.
He said the bodies were riddled with gunshot injuries and deep knife cuts, indicating intense fighting.
Gbadegesin said one person had been arrested.
The police were silent on the gangs involved in the clash. A resident, who begged for anonymity, said: “It is a clash of Boko Haram members and some boys percieved to be criminals who are committing atrocities in the town under the cover of Boko Haram.”
Commissioner of Police Patrick Egbuniwe also said a group of gunmen attacked his men in Gwange, but no life was lost.
He described as unfair the statement credited to Yobe State Deputy Governor Abubakar Aliyu that his convoy was shot at by a drunken policeman.
According to the CP, he is still investigating the case, but he wondered where the deputy govenor got his information.
“I really don’t know where he got that information that the policeman was drunk when we are still investigating the matter. As far as I know, we have not concluded investigation on that matter and for the deputy governor to say the policeman was drunk, is very unfortunate.
“The report of the investigation will soon be ready, but I will have to forward it to the Inspector-General,” Egbuniwe said.
The Maiduguri incident affected business. Traders closed their shops at the popular Monday market as early as 11am.
Civil servants immediately returned to their homes.
When our correspondent visited the secretariat at about 1pm, many offices were locked. Only a few workers were seen.
A civil servant who pleaded not to be named said many of us left for our various homes when we heard sporadic gunshots, which sounded so loud that they seemed to be within the premises.
He said they later heard that there was an attempted robbery at the Monday market, which was repelled by the JTF.
Confirming the attacks, JTF spokesman Lt.-Col. Sagir Musa said: “At about 10:00 am today (yesterday), a suicide bomber on a tricycle (KEKE NAPEP) targeted a JTF patrol vehicle and missed it. In the process, he rammed into a moving Mercedes Benz car and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device. The bomber instantly died, one civilian died, two others and a soldier were injured as a result of the explosion.”
He added: “The bodies and the three injured persons were taken to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital for treatment.”
Lt.-Col. Musa said one of the incidents was at Customs.
“The Task Force has since cordoned off, swept the affected area and routine activities are going on unhindered.”
The spokesman said in another incident in the town “two suspected members of Boko Haram terrorists who stormed the Monday market with the intention of killing innocent citizens were encountered and killed by troops of the JTF”.
He said in the incident, which occurred at about 11am, two AK 47 rifles and 18 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the assailants.
The JTF in Borno also alerted the public to the planned attacks by the men of the Boko Haram sect during weekend’s Eid-el-Fitril celebration.
The task force, in a statement said: “Intelligence information available to the JTF, Op RESTORE ORDER, indicated planned attacks on military and civilian targets by terrorists during the Sallah.
“People are advised to report any suspicious persons/movement to the Task Force so as to beef up security arrangement already put in place in order to achieve the desired peace and security during and after the period.”