“We fought them all night long but they took over the town, including the military barracks there,” a senior Nigerian military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Sunday.
Another military source confirmed that the Terrorists had seized the town, which is located about 137 kilometers (85 miles) from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
“Our troops had to withdraw after fighting the terrorists for several hours. They came in full force and at the end overpowered our men,” the source said.
Earlier in the day, Nigerian forces had repelled attacks by Boko Haram extremists on the nearby cities of Maiduguri and Konduga.
Nigerian Defense spokesman Chris Olukolade said a 24-hour curfew had been imposed on Maiduguri following the scuffles.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” controls large parts of northeastern Nigeria.
It has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks in various parts of Nigeria since 2009. Over 10,000 people have so far been killed in the assaults which have spread out to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.
Cameroon launched airstrikes against Boko Haram on December 28 last year after nearly 1,000 Boko Haram Terrorists assaulted a military camp located near the country’s northern border, forcing the Cameroonian troops to flee. The base was retaken by Cameroon military later.
Boko Haram Terrorists have launched an assault on the capital of the Borno state, Maiduguri, on Sunday and engaged in fierce fighting with the country’s military. The offensive started just hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to arrive.
A fierce battle raged in the city of Maiduguri, capital of restive Borno State, according to the military and local residents. “Troops are repelling a simultaneous attack on Monguno and Maiduguri by terrorists,” a tweet from Nigeria’s defense headquarters stated. Local residents say the fighting between government forces and the Terrorist group is continuing, AFP reports.
A security source told the Nigerian newspaper the Premium Times: “We had a sleepless night till this morning because these elements tried to enter Maiduguri from Dalwa and Limanti axis, but our soldiers were able to repel them. They retreated and took another flank around Njimtilo this morning and our troops have been engaging them there too.”
Njimtilo is about 20 kilometers away from Maiduguri.
Boko Haram began attacking Maiduguri on Sunday, with locals saying they could hear shelling and that military helicopters were circling the city. Activity in the city has ground to a halt, with shops and businesses closed, while all roads have been shut down, according to Reuters. A curfew has also been imposed.
Dozens of people were killed in the attack in the morning, AP reports. The roads leading to the city are blocked.
“We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk,” Amnesty International said.
In the evening, a fresh battle started between militants and government forces near Maiduguri International Airport.
“I can hear sporadic gun shots and bomb explosions, I am sure the boys are back to retaliate for what was done to them this morning,” Bello Muhammad, a local, told Reuters.
Kerry is the first US diplomat to visit Nigeria since 2012. However, his schedule sees him traveling to the southern city of Lagos, over 1,500 kilometers away from Maiduguri.
The vast area of Maiduguri is seen as a key strategic goal for Boko Haram, who want to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria. The terrorist organization last tried to take the city in December 2013. They managed to seize a local air force base and clashed with local troops.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently visited Maiduguri as part of his election campaign, with the country set to go to the polls in February. His main rival in his bid to seek re-election, Muhammadu Buhari, is due to arrive in the city on Monday.