Suspected Boko Haram militants repelled by government forces in Maiduguri, northern Nigeria

Government forces have successfully kept suspected Boko Haram fighters at bay from the city of Maiduguri

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The Independent Online

Suspected Boko Haram militants launched a fierce attack on Nigeria's major northeastern city of Maiduguri this morning but were defeated by government forces.

The attack was launched in the early hours of Sunday morning and shelling and gunfire was reportedly heard later in the day.  At least eight people are believed to have been killed and 27 injured, mostly civilians.

Military helicopters circled the city and air strikes were carried out. Authorities imposed a curfew, all roads have been closed and commercial premises shut.

It is believed that militants began the attack at the edge of the city in the Njimtilo area.

As the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri would have been a major asset for Boko Haram should government forces have failed to hold the city.

The city is home to many thousands of people from smaller towns and cities in the northeast of Nigeria that have been attacked by the militants.

Rachel Adamu, who lives in the Njimtilo district, said "please pray for us, we are in danger, under serious attack now," as the assault was underway.

Boko Haram has waged a five-year insurgency, killing thousands of civilians in the process, in its attempt to create an Islamic state in the north of the country.

The group already controls huge parts of Borno state and some areas of neighbouring Adamawa and Yobe states.

In recent weeks they have taken control of Baga and the nearby army base, in an attack that was described as one of Boko Haram's deadliest to date.

President Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his campaign for re-election in February. The inability of the government to deal with the insurgents is causing major problems for the president and his government.

On Monday the opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, is scheduled to visit the state capital.

Boko Haram previously attempted to capture Maiduguri and a nearby army and airforce base in December 2013, but were pushed back by government forces.

Additional reporting by Reuters