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Kano (NIGERIA) (AFP) - Boko Haram jihadists attacked a key city in northeast Nigeria on Sunday evening, residents told AFP, the second assault in days as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's deadline to eradicate the militants is set to expire.
The jihadists invaded Jiddari Polo, an area on the outskirts of the capital of northeastern Borno state, Maiduguri, at around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), shooting guns and unleashing explosives.
"We had just finished evening prayer in the mosque when we began to hear the barrages of artillery fire and sound of gunfire," said local Shehu Mala.
"All the residents in the area fled their homes to other parts of the city."
Nigeria's military responded with artillery fire, forcing the attackers to retreat.
Boko Haram fighters have made several attempts to retake Maiduguri —- the birthplace of the jihadist movement -— since they were pushed out three years ago.
It was not immediately clear if there had been any casualties from the fighting.
"We have to wait until the morning to have a good picture of the aftermath of the clash, because it happened in the dark," said Babakura Kolo, a civilian vigilante assisting the military.
The attack comes just days before Buhari's self-imposed deadline to stamp out the group expires on December 31, and in the same week that he said Nigeria has "technically" defeated the jihadists.
Nigerian troops have won back territory from Boko Haram, but two attacks launched by the militants within the space of three days have called into question Buhari's claim.
Attacking astride bicycles, Boko Haram invaded Kimba village in Borno state on Christmas Day evening, killing at least 14 residents and torching their homes.
The insurgents have also carried out deadly cross-border raids in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, fuelling fears that the hardline Muslim movement is growing into a regional jihadist threat.