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Thousands of Nigerians Flee Northeast Town After Boko Haram Raid

More than 15,000 people have fled their homes in northeastern Nigeria since an attack last week by suspected Islamist militants that left at least 21 people dead, said an emergency official.

Residents are fleeing from Damboa and areas surrounding the town in fear for their lives, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency in Borno state, told reporters today in Maiduguri, the region’s capital.

Nigerian security forces are struggling to contain a five-year insurgency by the militant group Boko Haram, which means “western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language.

The banner of the group, which is fighting to impose Islamic law on Africa’s top oil producer, was hoisted in Damboa after the attack on July 18. The trading town, located about 85 kilometers (53 miles) outside Maiduguri, is under Boko Haram’s control, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported today, citing a local vigilante leader it didn’t identify.

Troops are preparing to “reverse current insecurity” in the Damboa area, Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The Nigerian military will not concede any portion of this country to any such group” he said.

Boko Haram drew global outrage with its April 14 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in the northeastern town of Chibok, most of whom are still missing.

The group, which is most active in Borno and two other northeastern states, has killed at least 2,053 civilians in the first six months of this year in 95 attacks that may constitute crimes against humanity, according to Human Rights Watch.

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