Nigeria’s Military Says 21 Killed in Fighting With Islamists

Nigeria’s military said it killed at least 20 suspected Boko Haram Islamic militants after a gun battle in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

One soldier was killed and two others were wounded in the shootout late Aug. 11, Victor Ebhaleme, field operations officer of the military Joint Task Force in the region, said by phone from the city.

“We got intelligence reports that some suspected Boko Haram terrorists were having a meeting at a particular location in the metropolis,” he said. “While we approached the venue of their meeting point the terrorists opened fire on the JTF which led to the killing of 20 terrorists.”

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” wants to impose Islamic rule in Africa’s most populous country of more than 160 million people. Nigeria is almost evenly split between a Muslim north and a Christian south.

The group denies its members were killed, a Boko Haram spokesman, who identified himself as Abul Qaqa, told reporters by telephone from Maiduguri.

“The JTF only succeeded in killing innocent civilians,” he said. “It is not possible for 20 of our members to sit in a volatile place and hold a meeting.”

In another incident, two suspected Islamists were killed yesterday in the northeastern town of Damaturu in a gun battle with security forces, Patrick Egbuniwe, a police chief in Damaturu, Yobe’s state capital, said by phone today.

Separately, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members shot dead a policeman after an attack on a church in the northeastern Gombe state, Pwaje Attajiri, a police spokesman, said by phone from Gombe, the capital. A soldier was also killed in the city, he said.

The incidents are the latest in a spate of gun and bomb attacks in the mainly Muslim north and central parts of Africa’s top oil producer that have killed hundreds of people since 2009. Most of the attacks have been claimed by Boko Haram.