Islamic militants attack Nigerian air force base

Nigeria attackIn this file photo taken Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, Nigerian soldiers ride in an armored car during a Eid al-Fitr celebration in Maiduguri, Nigeria. (AP)

Hundreds of Islamic militants in trucks and a stolen armored personnel carrier attacked an air force base and international airport on the outskirts of a Nigerian city before dawn Monday, officials and witnesses said, possibly leaving scores of people dead in one of the insurgent group's most daring attacks.

A military official who was at the base said he saw three aircraft and several vehicles hit in the attack. The state government quickly ordered everyone to stay home and extended a night-time curfew to 24 hours in Maiduguri, the city near the air base which is also the birthplace of the extremist Boko Haram movement.

The militants also attacked Maiduguri International Airport, the official said, and airlines reported it has been closed. International flights to Maiduguri stopped months ago but domestic flights had continued.

Explosions and automatic gunfire could be heard across the northeastern city from around 2:30 a.m. when the insurgents launched the attack with screams of ``Allahu akbar,'' or ``God is great.''

Government and military officials said scores of people may be dead. Reporters saw military ambulances ferrying bodies to the hospital morgue.

Civilians living around the military base, which is off a main road, said they saw bodies with slit throats and corpses of insurgents burning in vehicles.

The witnesses and officials spoke only on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The attack comes a week after the military bombarded forest hideouts of the Boko Haram terrorist network near the border with Cameroon with air strikes and ground assaults.

One military officer put the number of attackers at around 500. It was unclear how such a large convoy could move undetected at night in an area under curfew, though the insurgents have seized many military vehicles and arms at the scenes of other attacks and witnesses have said they sometimes wear the same military fatigues as the Nigerian army.

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