Suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Wednesday launched a fresh attack on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital from a cashew plantation a few kilometres from the Giwa Barracks.
Maiduguri has not experienced an attack since two major takeover attempts in late January and early February as well as several bombings in March.
The insurgents have been fighting to create a Islamic state in the North-East along the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Residents said on Wednesday that they heard heavy shooting and explosions on the outskirts of the city and began fleeing their homes.
The shooting, which was still heard as of 8pm, according to them, began around 6.45pm.
A security source, who participated in the operation, said they fought off several hundred insurgents, which included suicide bombers.
“Some civilian youth vigilante who went to battle may have lost their lives,” he said.
The source explained that they were “trying to evacuate some women from a community behind the Giwa barracks when a bomb exploded from a woman suspected to be a suicide bomber.”
One of the residents said, “We were around Galtimari in Maiduguri behind the Giwa Army Barracks around 6.45pm when we started hearing gunshots from afar. The Nigerian soldiers were repelling the attacks.
“From what we learnt, the soldiers had surrounded Maiduguri town and Sambisa Forest and were attacking the insurgents. The gunshots were so loud that we felt it was happening where we were. We were so terrified. We are now wiser as many stayed indoors.
“The gunshots lasted for two hours but it has subsided owing to the inability of the Boko Haram fighters to withstand the soldiers. We learnt some of the insurgents are sneaking back into town disguised. With this it will be difficult to identify them.”
Another resident, Kabir Olaoye, who said they were caught unawares, told Reuters that he was “trapped near the University of Maiduguri now.”
Abdul Musa said the fighting had dwindled to a few intermittent gunshots.