Boko Haram attacks Maiduguri again — the birthplace of its revolution

At least eight people have been killed

Nigerian troops today repelled a Boko Haram attack on the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the would-be capital of the group's separate Islamist state.

In the third attack on the city this week several civilians were killed by aerial bombs and grenades and mortar shells on the ground, while soldiers said hundreds of insurgents died.

"There is heavy gunfire going on. Everybody is panicking and trying to flee the area," said Idris Abubakar, a resident of Polo on the western outskirts of the city.

Resident Babagana Lawan said a grenade fell on his house, killing his brother and two factory workers living with him.

A security source confirmed the attack had occurred, but said troops had been mobilised to try to repel the insurgents.

Capturing Maiduguri would represent a huge victory for Boko Haram; it was there that the group emerged five years ago.

Its third attack in a week on the city came as Chadian forces launched a winning offensive, acting on an African Union directive for Nigeria’s neighbours to help fight the spreading Islamic uprising by Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram extremists.

International outrage has grown over attacks across the border into Cameroon and increasing ferocity that culminated in the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in Baga on 3 January.

A Chadian jet fighter supported by ground troops bombed the extremists out of Gamboru and Kolfata on Saturday and from Malumfatori on Thursday, witnesses said.

Chadian troops in Kolfata were “dancing around their country’s flag and chanting,” farmer Awami Kolobe said, quoting refugees who returned across the border from Cameroon. The towns had been under the sway of Boko Haram for months. Gamboru is about 140km (85 miles) north-east of Maiduguri, and Baga is another 100km north of Gamboru, on Lake Chad, where Nigeria’s borders converge with Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

African leaders on Saturday authorised the creation of a 7,500-strong multinational force to fight Boko Haram.

Boko Haram warned against the coalition and said it will attack Niger if it sends troops, just as it has attacked Cameroon, according to the SITE intelligence service.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan continues to face political fallout from the increasing death toll ahead of this month's too-close-to-call election.

Earlier this month Boko Haram was reported to have carried out its "deadliest massacre", killing 2,000 people in its seige of the town of Baga.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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