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09.01.2020 Nigeria

Clashes over Nigeria garrison town spark deadly displacement camp fire: witnesses

By AFP
Chadian soldiers pictured last month in Monguno. The latest attack came just three days after Chad withdrew 1,200 troops from the region.  By AUDU MARTE (AFP)
LISTEN JAN 9, 2020
Chadian soldiers pictured last month in Monguno. The latest attack came just three days after Chad withdrew 1,200 troops from the region. By AUDU MARTE (AFP)

Intense fighting between Nigeria's army and jihadists over a key northeastern garrison town killed three soldiers and sparked a deadly blaze at a nearby displacement camp, witnesses and security sources said Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of fighters from the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), aboard several trucks fitted with machine guns attacked Monguno, a town some 135 kilometres (85 miles) north of Borno State capital Maiduguri.

Witnesses said a rocket-propelled grenade struck a nearby camp housing thousands of displaced people during the fighting, causing a fire that destroyed hundreds of tents.

"Eight people died and 20 were injured in the fire," local resident, Kulo Gana told AFP, who was at the scene.

"The fire burnt more than 300 tents," said Gana, adding that hundreds of families were left without shelter.

Earlier a security source told AFP that three soldiers were killed when an army vehicle burst into flames after a car filled with explosives rammed into a convoy on Tuesday afternoon.

Just three days earlier, Chad withdrew 1,200 troops from the region -- including hundreds from Monguno -- after completing a nine-month mission fighting a rival jihadist group, Nigeria's Boko Haram.

The pullout from the largest base in the volatile Lake Chad region, which straddles the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, had sparked widespread fears of increased jihadist attacks.

On Tuesday jihadists launched multiple attacks in the town.

Buses carrying civilians under military escort outside the town, were ambushed by jihadists local residents said, sparking a gun battle.

Soldiers who repelled the attack killed many of the jihadists, witnesses said.

Militants also stormed a compound housing the offices of aid agencies working in the region.

Residents witnessed jihadists launching grenades into the offices, which had been evacuated before the attack.

Soldiers quelled the attacks and put the town on lockdown on Wednesday, with troops stepping up patrols, residents said.

ISWAP and Boko Haram have repeatedly attacked Monguno in failed attempts to overrun it.

In recent months, ISWAP has ramped up attacks in the northeast, targeting security officials and abducting civilians at fake highway checkpoints.

The decade-long conflict in remote northeastern Nigeria has claimed 36,000 lives and displaced around two million from their homes, according to the United Nations.

The conflict has spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the jihadist groups.

Nigeria

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