Rocket-propelled grenades exploded into several homes, killing at least seven peoples in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri before dawn on saturday as Boko Haram unleashed a new kind of violence in the birthplace of the extremist group, said residents.
Maiduguri resident Mari Madu said he counted at least 40 thunderous blasts that began around 1am before he lost count. "Each time they fired into the town, we saw bright sparkling flashes which moved with great speed.One of the blasts shook my roof so badly that I thought it must have landed on my house," he said.
Several homes were destroyed in Maiduguri's Dala-Lawanti suburb, he said. Self-defense fighter Abbas Gava said at least seven people were killed and more injured when one grenade exploded into a house divided into apartments . An intelligence officer confirmed the toll and said Boko Haram was firing rocket-propelled grenades.
The officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not supposed to give information to journalists, said soldiers fired heavy assault rifles in response. Gava was in a group of civilian fighters who patrolled until dawn to ensure the Islamic extremists did not get through barriers including sandbags and trenches.
Maiduguri's population of 2 million has swelled with hundreds of thousands of refugees. More than 1.5 million Nigerians have been driven from their homes by the nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria which has killed an estimated 13,000 people.
A multinational offensive this year forced the insurgents from towns and villages where they had declared an Islamic caliphate but the extremists continue to carry out suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks. In a separate incident, twin explosions at a village wedding venue killed seven people on Friday.
Nigeria's military says Boko Haram is trapped in the northeastern Sambisa Forest. But the insurgents two weeks ago attempted another attack on Maiduguri, 200 kilometers (125 miles) away. At his inauguration Friday, Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to crush the insurgents. Buhari said he will move the headquarters for the war against Boko Haram from Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, to Maiduguri.