Suspected members of the radical Islamic group, the Boko Haram, attacked a police checkpoint in Maiduguri on Sunday, setting off a gun battle that led to the killings of a policeman and two of their colleagues.
The Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, Mohammed Abubakar, made this known just as hoodlums killed a policeman and injured another during their attack on a students’ hostel in Jos Plateau State.
Abubakar, who also disclosed that 19 people had been arrested in connection with the assasination of a governoship candidate and six others in Maiduguri on Friday, told the Associated Press that the gun battle between the Islamic militants and the police started in the morning.
“One of our policemen was killed today (Sunday), while two members of the Boko Haram gunmen were also gunned down during an exchange of gunshots at the Pompomari Housing estate in Maiduguri,” Abubakar said.
“Our men have also killed two of the attackers whom we believe are members of the outlawed Boko Haram sect,” he added.
The police commissioner said the attack had caused the Force to deploy more policemen to each of the city’s 25 checkpoints with at least 10 policemen at each.
Although the group has not claimed responsibility for the attack, the modus operandi of the latest attack was similar to other previous ones by the group.
Suspected Boko Haram members have used motorcycle-riding gunmen to attack soldiers and policemen manning checkpoints throughout Borno state, as well as those who publicly oppose the group. But much remains murky about Boko Haram’s intentions, and whether all the killings in Maiduguri are due to the group’s re-emergence.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege” in Hausa language, has attacked churches and engineered a massive prison break in recent months.
The group was thought to be vanquished in 2009, when the military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and pronouced dead in police custody.
The Borno State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Malam Lawal Abdullahi, had also on Sunday confirmed that “19 persons believed to be behind the recent serial killings in the state had been arrested in different parts of Maiduguri.”
“The suspects have been assisting us in investigations and I believe it is just a matter of time for us to charge those found culpable to court,’’ Abdullahi added.
In Jos the crises in the city escalated as another policeman was killed and his body set ablaze by hoodlums who attacked a students’ hostel.
It was learnt that the policeman was part a five-man patrol team that responded to a distress call that the hostel inhabited by some students of the University of Jos was under attack.
The attackers , who also injured another member of the team, were said to have slit the throat of the policeman before setting his body on fire.
The Commander of the Special Task Force, Brig Gen. Hassan Umaru,who confirmed the development, said that 35 suspects were arrested in connection with the attack.
He added that another team of policemen that raced to the scene also found out that the other policeman in the first team was injured.
Umaru said, “We received a distress call that students of the University of Jos were under attack. Somehow, they (policemen) could not have access from the general area where the attack was coming from.
“They had to access the place through Naraguta Village and on getting there, they were under a serious attack where they discovered that a policeman had already been killed.
“But my men stood firm where they made contacts with me and I asked them to raid the village without delay and they were able to make some arrests and recovered some weapons.”
Umaru said that one of suspects who slashed the throat of the riot policeman, was found with a canister of tear gas.
Our correspondent learnt that residents of Chobe Junction Area in the city panicked also on Sunday as rumour of the discovery of a bomb in a dumpsite in a makeshift market spread.
There was also tension in Apata, Laranto and Enugu Road, extending up to Gada Biu and Zaria Road following sporadic gun shots from men of the STF.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abdulrahman Akano, attributed the development to the arrest of a man with a polythene bag containing some explosives.
He explained that when some angry youths barricaded the road after the suspect had been handed over to soldiers.
This, according to him, made the security agents to shoot their way through.
No fewer than 42 people have been killed by gunmen and herdsmen in different parts of Jos in the past two weeks.