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Nigerian troops close Maiduguri-Damaturu highway amidst fresh Boko Haram attacks

Nigerian troops have closed the only safe highway that leads into Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, following a series of attacks on the route by Boko Haram insurgents in the last 48 hours.

It is not yet clear how long the closure will last, but motorists said they were stopped from plying the route early Wednesday.

There are six major highways that takes travellers in and out of Maiduguri. But with the capture of territories and displacement of residents from their communities in 2014, all the five roads were closed by the military due to security concerns.

At the peak of its attacks, Boko Haram bombed bridges on the major routes leading to Maiduguri, except the Maiduguri-Kano highway that links the state capital with the Yobe state capital, Damaturu.

Since 2014, soldiers and the police have battled to prevent Boko Haram from attacking the Benishek Bridge which is the only bridge on the 135km-long road linking Maiduguri and Damaturu. Benishek is the headquarters of Kaga local government area of Borno state.

The military and residents feared that should the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road fall under the control of Boko Haram, the insurgents would have effectively won the war because the Borno State capital would have been practically cut off from all access by land.

Even after the military from December 2017 through early 2018, opened up most of the roads that were taken by Boko Haram, travelling on them still required heavy military escort.

On Christmas Day, three weeks ago, suspected Boko Haram gunmen carried out a major attack on a military base located at Kukareta village of Yobe state, along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, where they burnned down the camp and dislodged the checkpoint being manned by soldiers there.

On Monday, Boko Haram insurgents carried out yet another attack on Auno village, 25km away from Maiduguri.

The attack, which was confirmed by the Theatre Commander of the Operation Lafiya Dole, Benson Akinroluyo, a major general, occurred at about 6 p.m. on Monday.

It was later followed by a late night attack on a village, Sajiri, located right outside Maiduguri town.

Though details of the Auno attack are still not clear as military has blocked access to the village, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that two persons were killed and eight houses burnt in Sajiri.

Sajiri is a small community located behind the Nigeria Air Force base, situated along the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road.

Though reasons behind military’s decision to close down the road have not been made clear, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from reliable sources that Ngamdu, a boundary village between Borno and Yobe state, located along the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway, was attacked last night.

A military source informed PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that vehicular movement on the Maiduguri-Kano Road have been extended down to Potiskum, a town in Yobe, which is about 235km away from Maiduguri.

Confirming the development, a commercial cab driver who normally plies the route, Ali Vectra, informed our reporter on phone that, “We have stopped loading passengers because the soldiers have closed the road, which makes it impossible for us to travel in or out of the town”.

Saidu Bappa, a business man in Damagum, a local government headquarters in Yobe state, which is about 68km away from Damaturu, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the road between Damaturu and Potiskum has also been closed down.

“Normally, the road is closed at night and opened for vehicular movements at 6am everyday,” he said.

“But we woke up this morning to find out that the road remained closed from Potiskum to Damaturu.”

The development has hundreds of vehicles and travellers stranded on the either sides of the road.

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