Nigerian troops repelled an incursion by Boko Haram jihadists into the northeastern city of Maiduguri late on Tuesday, killing five insurgents, military sources and residents told AFP.
The attack, which happened as Muslim residents observing Ramadan were about to break their fast, was the latest violence in a more than decade-long insurgency in the region.
Around 17:00, militants in several trucks fitted with machine guns and on motorcycles stormed Jiddari Polo, an area on the outskirts of the capital of Borno state, firing indiscriminately.
Troops from a nearby base engaged them in a fierce gun battle, forcing residents to flee the area.
“The terrorists came through Jiddari Polo, firing shots and engaged troops from Giwa barracks in a fight which led to the killing of five terrorists,” a military officer said, asking to remain anonymous.
“With aerial support, they were subdued and forced to retreat” and a gun truck was seized from the jihadists, he added.
“We have all left our homes due to the fighting between the insurgents and soldiers,” said Jiddari Polo resident Aisa Galadima.
Another resident, Ibrahim Bukar, said: “We left the food and drinks we prepared to break our fast, we were frightened by the sounds of guns and explosives.”
Footage shared on social media showed crowds, mostly women and children, fleeing the area.
The jihadists had earlier dislodged troops from two military posts in nearby Molai and Cashew Plantation villages before reaching Jiddari Polo, a second military source said.
There was no report of casualties from the two military posts.
Boko Haram and rival group the Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, have repeatedly made incursions into Maiduguri, using heavy guns, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombers.
The attacks, aimed at overrunning the city, are usually foiled after fierce gun battles with troops.
In May 2019, dozens of insurgents attempted to infiltrate the city under the cover of darkness, leading to a night-long battle with heavy guns and explosives.
The conflict in the region has killed at least 36 000 people and displaced more than two million from their homes, according to the UN.