Nigeria Says 18 Dead as Army Battles With Boko Haram Suspects

Nigerian security forces said they clashed over the past two days with suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamist militant movement, a day after a self-proclaimed spokesman for the group announced a cease-fire.

The Joint Military Task Force, backed by helicopter gunships, carried out two operations in the towns of Bama and Damboa in northeastern Borno state, in which 17 Boko Haram suspects and one soldier were killed, Sagir Musa, a JTF spokesman in Borno, said today in an e-mailed statement.

The forces carried out the operations to dislodge Boko Haram from camps which he said were fortified and “used to conduct training and carry out recent attacks, killings and bombings” in several towns.

The clashes started Jan. 29, a day after self-proclaimed spokesman Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz told reporters in Maiduguri that Boko Haram agreed to put down arms on condition that members were freed from prisons. Abdulaziz said the group took the decision after meetings with the Borno state government. Neither the government nor Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau confirmed the talks took place.

Hundreds of people have died in the uprising started by the Islamist group in 2009. Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has carried out bomb and gun attacks in the north and Abuja, the capital. Nigeria’s more than 160 million people are almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

Musa urged civilians to share any information that could help their operations.

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