Boko Haram gunmen launched a dawn raid Saturday on the hometown of Nigeria’s army chief, triggering a fierce gunbattle with troops, residents of a nearby village to which people fled the clashes said.
There was no immediate report of casualties in the fighting in Buratai in Borno state, the home village of Tukur Yusuf Buratai, Nigeria’s top army officer.
Abubakar Umar, a resident of the nearby hamlet of Miringa, told AFP that the fighting began at 5:00 am after Boko Haram insurgents attacked the village.
“At one point we could hear explosions coming from the direction of Buratai,” he said.
Troops reinforcements from a military base in the town of Biu, 30 kilometres from Buratai, were seen passing through Miringa.
“Nine trucks conveying soldiers and another four carrying local hunters drove through our village towards Buratai and from what we hear more are on their way,” said Shitu Ayuba, another resident.
Some Buratai residents had fled to Miringa, where they took shelter in a primary school, locals said.
Buratai and nearby villages have been repeatedly targeted in deadly raids by the Islamist insurgents since June, when the army chief assumed office.
Residents believe the attacks are in response to recent military gains against the jihadists under the army chief.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has given the military a December 31 deadline to crush the jihadist uprising that has killed some 17,000 and displaced around 2.6 million people since 2009.
Last Saturday, Boko Haram killed 30 people and injured 20 others in raids on three villages near Buratai.
On Thursday, the insurgents killed 14 people, some of whom were decapitated, when they raided Kamuya village, the hometown of Buratai’s mother and burnt it down.
Boko Haram which seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has also carried out deadly attacks in Chad, Cameroon and Niger in the past year.