May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s military is chasing Islamist fighters as they flee to the borders of Chad and Niger from the northeast, where President Goodluck Jonathan has declared emergency rule, spokesman Chris Olukolade said.
The military has destroyed “all terrorist camps” and secured towns and villages in the areas of New Marte, Hausari, Krenoa, Wulgo and Chikun Ngulalo, Olukolade said today in an e-mailed statement.
The Nigerian military began an air and ground offensive last week after Jonathan imposed emergency rule in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa on May 14.
Parts of the country’s northeast had been taken over by Islamist militants, Jonathan said. Authorities in Africa’s largest oil producer have been fighting the Boko Haram Islamist group which has been blamed for carrying out attacks that have killed thousands of people since 2009.
“Terrorists fleeing toward Chad and Niger republic are being contained as they have had encounters with a multinational joint task force in various locations toward the border,” Olukolade said. “Advancing troops also observed a few shallow graves believed to be those of hurriedly buried members of the terrorist groups.”
About 120 militants were arrested in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, and are being interrogated, Olukolade said.
Troops in the northeast will protect civilians and respect internationally accepted rules of engagement, Doyin Okupe, a spokesman for Jonathan, said an e-mailed statement.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, has carried out gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja, the capital, since police killed its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, while in custody for his role in clashes with the security forces in Maiduguri in 2009. The group says it wants Islamic rule in Africa’s most populous country, almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
Troops mounted air and ground attacks on May 16 on camps used by the militants, destroying anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, according to the country’s defense headquarters. At least 24 militants have been killed and 85 others arrested since the military operation began on May 16, according to figures compiled by the army.
The emergency rule declaration was needed to restore security in the northeast as the government tries to boost economic activity in industries such as agriculture and mining, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said today in Abuja.
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