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People from Yobe state this week appealed for the military to restore cell phone service in the area under a state of emergency, saying it could have helped avert a June 16 attack on a school that the military said killed seven students, two teachers, two soldiers and two extremists in Damaturu, capital of Yobe state.
Residents told the AP that they had noticed suspicious movements of strangers and could have alerted soldiers and police, if their cell phones were working. Instead, the military said they were involved in a five-hour shootout before the militants fled.
A day later, June 17, extremists fired on students sitting at their desks as they were writing exams in Maiduguri, killing at least nine pupils.
Borno state officials say more than 20,000 people have fled to Cameroon in recent weeks amid the violence.
The military has claimed success in regaining control of the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. However, the area covers around 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) or one-sixth of the sprawling country. The rebellion poses the biggest threat in years to security in Africa's biggest oil producer.
Soldiers say they have killed and arrested hundreds of fighters. But the crackdown, including attacks with fighter jets and helicopter gunships on militant camps, appears to have driven the extremists into rocky mountains with caves, from which they emerge to attack schools and markets.
The militants have increasingly targeted civilians, including health workers on vaccination campaigns, traders, teachers and government workers.
Farmers have been driven from their land by the extremists and by military roadblocks, raising the specter of a food shortage to add to the woes of a people already hampered by a dusk-to-dawn curfew and the military's shutdown of cell phone service and ban on using satellite telephones.