Nigerian Troops Kill 10 Militants, Arrest 65 in Northeast

Nigerian troops killed 14 Boko Haram Islamist insurgents and arrested 20 others in clashes yesterday around the northeastern city of Maiduguri, a military spokesman said.

The Islamists have deserted their camps and are retreating towards the country’s northeastern border, struggling to move scores of vehicles in their possession, Chris Olukolade, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

“Fourteen terrorists were confirmed dead,” Olukolade said. “Twenty terrorists were apprehended as they fled.” Three soldiers died and seven were wounded, he said. Seven vehicles used by the insurgents were recovered, he said.

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 since the 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 biggest oil producer.

President Goodluck Jonathan on May 14 declared emergency rule in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to tackle the insurgency that has killed thousands since 2009. Parts of the country’s northeast were being taken over by Islamist militants, Jonathan said. Africa’s most populous country of more than 160 million people is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.

Baga Deaths

Jonathan’s action followed violence in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, that killed as many as 228 people after security forces responded to an attack by militants on April 16, according to local officials. The army says 30 insurgents, six civilians and a soldier were killed, and 30 houses were burned down. New York-based Human Rights Watch said satellite images of Baga show at least 2,000 homes were destroyed.

Fighting on May 17 in the Gamboru district of the Borno state capital left 10 militants dead, while 65 others fleeing military attacks on their camps in the northern and central parts of the state were arrested trying to enter the city, Olukolade said yesterday.

Troops mounted air and ground attacks three days ago on camps used by the militants, destroying anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, according to the army. A 24-hour curfew was imposed yesterday on eight Maiduguri districts, including Gamboru, as the joint military task force operating in the area hunts for militants, Sagir Musa, a military spokesman in the city, said in an e-mailed statement.

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