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Militants attack Nigerian city at centre of conflict with Boko Haram

Boko Haram has in the past targeted places of worship during religious celebrations, including attacking churches at Christmas or mosques during Muslim festivals or prayer times.

FILE: Picture: Supplied.

MAIDUGURI - Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked on Monday the outskirts of Maiduguri, the Nigerian city at the centre of the conflict with the Islamist insurgency, witnesses said.

Heavy gunfire was heard in the Molai area of the city and residents were fleeing, said two residents and an officer in a local vigilante group.

“We are under attack now, the situation is bad,” said the vigilante group commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that he suspected Boko Haram was behind the assault.

A soldier in the area, who asked not to be identified, said the army was trying to repel the attackers, but he did not give more details.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility or any statements confirming an attack from the authorities. It was also not immediately possible to identify the target of the assault.

Boko Haram has in the past targeted places of worship during religious celebrations, including attacking churches at Christmas or mosques during Muslim festivals or prayer times.

The government often says it is on alert for Boko Haram attacks during the Christmas period and other religious festivals, and embassies warn their nationals to be cautious and avoid public spaces at those times.

The last major Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri, a mainly Muslim city with a Christian minority, was in June when the group launched an assault on the eve of a visit by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as “Western-style education is forbidden”, is seeking to impose its strict interpretation of Islam.