Boko Haram crisis: Militants attack key city of Maiduguri
Fighters from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have launched an attack on the key city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, reports say.
Fierce fighting is said to be taking place on the outskirts of the city as militants attempt to enter it.
The military is carrying out air strikes, and a curfew has been imposed.
Maiduguri is home to tens of thousands of people who have fled Boko Haram attacks and was visited on Saturday by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state.
Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria.
Residents of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, say they woke to sustained loud explosions and gunshots.
Roads and business have been closed by security forces.
The attack appeared to have begun in the Njimtilo district on the edge of the city.
One resident there, Rachel Adamu, told Reuters: “Please pray for us, we are in danger, under serious attack now.”
The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja says the military are carrying out co-ordinated air strikes and ground attacks against the insurgents.
Maiduguri would be a major prize for Boko Haram, which last tried to take the city in December 2013.
President Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his election campaign for polls in February.
It was his second visit in two weeks. Before these trips his last visit had been in March 2013.
On his visit on 16 January, he told some of the 5,000 refugees who fled recent Boko Haram violence: “I want to assure you that you will soon go back to your houses.”
He pledged that “all the areas under the control of Boko Haram will soon be recaptured”.
His visit came after UK-based human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images of towns attacked by Boko Haram, suggesting widespread destruction and a high death toll.
The pictures showed some 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed in Baga and neighbouring Doron Baga in the first week of the year, the human-rights group said.
Nigeria’s government has disputed reports that as many as 2,000 were killed, putting the toll at just 150.