Embattled Nigeria states halt travel over holiday threats

Maidguri: Nigeria's embattled northeast Yobe and Borno states today imposed a travel ban through the Muslim holiday weekend to guard against Boko Haram attacks, barring motorists from reaching their families for the Eid celebration.

A message broadcast on public radio in Yobe instructed people "to remain in their towns and villages until Monday... to forestall security breaches as we celebrate the Eid" holiday.

Yobe and neighbouring Borno and Adamawa states have been under a state of emergency since May last year because of the Boko Haram conflict and the Islamists have typically carried out strikes on Muslim holidays.

"We were turned back just outside Damaturu this morning. We were told that we couldn't proceed because there is a lockdown in the whole of Yobe state," said Muntari Saidu, who was travelling from the Borno state capital Maiduguri to Kano.

"We had no option but to turn back. This means I can't celebrate with my family in Kano," he told AFP by phone.

Army authorities in Maiduguri have also imposed a ban on vehicular movement throughout Borno state from 5:00 pm on Friday to 0700 am on Monday.

An army statement said a security report indicated that Boko Haram militants have made plans to launch "multiple bomb explosions" in the city and other major towns in the state during the Muslim festival.

They planned to use motor vehicles, tri-cycles, among others, and their main targets include Muslim praying grounds, markets and other public places, it said.

It advised members of the public to perform their prayers at praying grounds nearest to their residences and warned that violators of the ban "will be severely sanctioned."

Many of Boko Haram's most deadly attacks have been carried out by gunmen who storm towns and villages riding on motorcycles, trucks and armed personnel vehicles.

The ban over the holiday weekend would block any private or public vehicles from traveling on roads throughout the states.

A military source, who requested anonymity, also said the security forces in the northeast expected the insurgents to be active over the weekend.

"We have concrete intelligence that Boko Haram terrorists are planning massive attacks in Borno and Yobe state," said the source.

The militants are thought to be in control of more than two dozen towns and villages in the northeast, but the military insists that lost ground can be regained. 

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