By Adam Nossiter
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Maiduguri, the major city in Nigeria’s northeast, came under sustained attack from Boko Haram terrorists on Sunday morning, with officials here calling it the group’s most audacious assault on the city to date.
This city of over two million people was attacked beginning late Saturday night from at least two directions by the militants from the Islamist insurgency, which effectively controls the territory surrounding the city. Loud explosions were heard in the center of the city, and small-arms fire and artillery in its suburbs.
“Certainly this is the most serious attack yet,” said Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State, of which Maiduguri is the capital. “We faced a really existential threat.”
By late Sunday morning, the attack appeared to have been repulsed by the Nigerian military. Officials said bombs dropped on insurgent positions had turned the tide of the battle here, but there were reports that a major military installation in a town to the north, Monguno, had fallen to the insurgents, with over 1,000 soldiers fleeing to the bush in the face of the attack.
Initial reports suggested that civilian and military casualties were substantial. Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of residents fleeing the suburbs and rushing toward the city’s center. They also reported seeing some Nigerian troops moving away from the fighting, as in numerous previous engagements with the Islamists.
“There’s a lot of gunshots and explosions,” said a top official at the city’s leading hospital who lives in the suburbs and asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press and did not want to jeopardize his job. “These boys are trying to come into town.”
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