Six people were killed and many soldiers wounded when Boko Haram terrorists loyal to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked Damasak in Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State at night on Saturday.
It was learnt that three women, a man and two soldiers lost their lives during the attack but other sources gave higher figures.
The United Nations has condemned the attack saying thousands of people would face serious humanitarian challenges.
Locals said the assailants had destroyed the United Nations Hub housing all the workers of the international organisation.
The hub was established in Damasak, located 188 from Maiduguri in the northern part of Borno to fast track support for victims of Boko Haram excesses. The town had survived several attacks in the last 11 years.
It was learnt that the insurgents stormed Damasak in the evening and engaged the troops from multiple locations, which led to the burning down of the UN hub and others infrastructures.
While some of the terrorists were engaging the troops at their camps, others were busy burning NGOs warehouses near the UN hub.
A local source said the residence of the traditional ruler of Damasak, and the Norwegian Refugees Commission (NRC) facilities at Fulatari Ward, were also torched.
“The warehouse of the World Food Programme (WFP), which was filled with assorted food items, was completely looted.
“They also carted away medicine and other equipment at a nearby government hospital. They stole the belongings of the poor people who are already in need of support.
“Many vehicles belonging to all the humanitarian agencies in the town were either stolen or burnt,” the source said.
But military authorities said Nigerian troops had repelled the violent group, killed some of the attackers while others fled with injuries.
One of them claimed that the onslaught was foiled by the troops with the help of air support.
He said two soldiers lost their lives and three others sustained various degrees of injuries.
The Chairman of Mobbar LGA, Mustapha Bunu Kolo, who confirmed the attack to few journalists, described what happened as “worrisome”.
“Yes, there was a devastating Boko Haram attack in Damasak yesterday night…The insurgents destroyed all humanitarian hubs and their facilities after carting away foodstuff at one of their main warehouses.
“The insurgents also went to General Hospital and carted away medical consumables with a brand new ambulance stationed at the facility,” Kolo informed.
Another source said the Boko Haram fighters attacked both the 5 Army Brigade and 145 Battalion simultaneously thereby throwing the whole town into confusion.
He added that they burnt the house of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO).
“The inhabitants of Damasak town were thrown into a panic mode as a result of the gun duel between the Nigeria troops and the terrorists who drove gun trucks.
“While retreating from the town, they carted away an unspecified number of vehicles belonging to NGOs and other people. They looted food items worth millions of naira,” he said.
Daily Trust was told that the terrorists attacked the town basically to look for food, medicaments and logistics, saying they have for long, shelved the idea of territorial conquest.
“If you look at their recent exploits, you will discover that they only attack military formations and soft targets in order to get food and fighting equipment,” a security expert familiar with happenings in the region, said.
“Even when the military retreated in order to restrategise, they rarely meet the attackers in those places because they (Boko Haram) these days move out of such places and recoil in their safe locations around the shores of the Lake Chad,” he said.
Unconfirmed reports indicated a military fighter jet dispatched to give support to ground troops engaging the assailants had mistakenly dropped a bomb on some locals attending a naming ceremony.
UN condemns siege
Speaking on the development, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, condemned the destruction of their humanitarian hub and other NGOs.
In a statement on Sunday in Maiduguri, Kallon lamented Saturday’s attacks saying, “I am deeply concerned about recurrent reports of violent attacks by non-state armed groups putting the lives of civilians under risks.
“Last night and through the morning, a violent attack in Damasak town, in Borno State, was reported with three international aid partners’ facilities directly targeted, set ablaze, and sustained damage. I continue to be concerned about the safety and security of civilians and humanitarian workers.
“I strongly condemn the attack, as humanitarian aid operations and facilities are the lifeline for people affected by violence and conflict in northeast Nigeria who are dependent on assistance to survive.
“Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there.
“Civilians and aid workers, their facilities and assets should never be a target. They must always be protected and respected. I call on armed parties to observe and commit to international humanitarian law and human rights law, and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property, and personnel,” he said.
Besides the attack in Damasak, sources said three soldiers were killed by suspected members of Boko Haram who sneaked into Molai general area in the outskirt of Maiduguri on Saturday evening.
The area is surrounded by a trench but the assailants used a military camouflage gun truck and took the troops manning the entry point by surprise and succeeded in killing three and left.