At least seven passengers were killed and many others, including an escort team of soldiers, injured when gunmen believed to be Boko Haram insurgents attacked a convoy of motorists along the newly opened Maiduguri-Biu highway, witnesses said.
The Maiduguri-Biu highway, which passes through Damboa Village, was one of the most dangerous routes hunted by Boko Haram who forced motorists to avoid plying it for nearly three years until the Nigerian military recaptured and opened it last year.
Despite it being declared safe, travellers are not allowed to ply the road without a military escort.
A witness, Dauda Pambe, informed PREMIUM TIMES that he was among the travellers being escorted by soldiers from Maiduguri to Biu on Saturday morning when the gunmen launched the ambush attack.
“We were somewhere between Bulabulin and DogonWaya villages when the Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on the vehicles ahead of us in the convoy”, said Mr. Pambe.
“The first vehicle was hit on the tire and the driver could not proceed so the passengers alighted and fled into the bush; the second vehicle was a pickup van carrying many passengers, and many of them could not escape”.
“They exchanged fire for sometime as many of us remained in the vehicles ducking to avoid being hit with bullet. When the shooting stopped and the Boko Haram fighters left, we had about seven passengers that were killed and some soldiers too were injured”, the witness said.
Unofficial sources within the security circle said days before the Saturday morning incident, a group of Boko Haram insurgents had suffered some loss when the military repelled an attack from them at the same location.
The incident came three days after Boko Haram gunmen suffered a heavy loss of members after a failed attempt to attack a military base in Kamaya Village near Buratai town of Borno State. In that incident Boko Haram gunmen had in their large numbers stormed a military base in Kamaya with the intention of dislodging the soldiers and taking over the command of the area.
Neither the police nor the military has issued a statement on Maiduguri – Biu road attack.
Text messages sent to the spokesman of the military in Borno, Victor Isuku, and that of the Borno police, Onyema Nwachukwu, asking for reactions were not responded to as at the time of this report.