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.
The rise of Boko Haram
The rise of Boko Haram
1/19 Boko Haram
The leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau delivers a message. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the mass killings in the north-east Nigerian town of Baga in a video where he warned the massacre “was just the tip of the iceberg”. As many as 2,000 civilians were killed and 3,700 homes and business were destroyed in the 3 January 2015 attack on the town near Nigeria's border with Cameroon
2/19 Boko Haram
People displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, are seen near their tents at a faith-based camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Yola, Adamawa State. Boko Haram says it is building an Islamic state that will revive the glory days of northern Nigeria's medieval Muslim empires, but for those in its territory life is a litany of killings, kidnappings, hunger and economic collapse
3/19 Boko Haram
Nitsch Eberhard Robert, a German citizen abducted and held hostage by suspected Boko Haram militants, is seen as he arrives at the Yaounde Nsimalen International airport after his release in Yaounde, Cameroon on 21 January 2015
4/19 Boko Haram
Officials of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) visit victims of a bomb blast in Gombe at the Specialist Hospital in Gombe. According to local reports at least six people were killed and 11 wounded after a bomb blast in a marketplace in Nigeria's northeastern state of Gombe on 16 January 2015. Islamist militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for a string of recent attacks in the North East of Nigeria
5/19 Boko Haram
People gather at the site of a bomb explosion in a area know to be targeted by the militant group Boko Haram in Kano on 28 November 2014
6/19 Boko Haram
People gather to look at a burnt vehicle following a bomb explosion that rocked the busiest roundabout near the crowded Market in Maiduguri, Borno State on 1 July 2014. A truck exploded in a huge fireball killing at least 15 people in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the city repeatedly hit by Boko Haram Islamists
7/19 Boko Haram
President Goodluck Jonathan visits Nigerian Army soldiers fighting Boko Haram
8/19 Boko Haram
Displaced people from Baga listen to Goodluck Jonathan after the Boko Haram killings
9/19 Boko Haram
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan speaking to troops during a visit to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State; most of the region has been overrun by Boko Haram
10/19 Boko Haram
Members of the Nigerian military patrolling in Maiduguri, North East Nigeria, close to the scene of attacks by Boko Haram
11/19 Boko Haram
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, appears in a video in which he warns Cameroon it faces the same fate as Nigeria
12/19 Boko Haram
South Africans protest in solidarity against the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram and what protesters said was the failure of the Nigerian government and international community to rescue them, during a march to the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg
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Boko Haram militants have seized the town in north-eastern Nigeria that nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped from in April 2014
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A soldier stands guard in front of burnt buses after an attack in Abuja. Twin blasts at a bus station packed with morning commuters on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital killed dozens of people, in what appeared to be the latest attack by Boko Haram Islamists, April 2014
15/19 Boko Haram
The aftermath of the attack, when Boko Haram fighters in trucks painted in military colours killed 51 people in Konduga in February 2014
16/19 Boko Haram
The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (with papers) in a video grab taken in July 2014
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Ruins of burnt out houses in the north-eastern settlement of Baga, pictured after Boko Haram attacks in 2013
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A Boko Haram attack in Nigeria, 2013
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Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader
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