By Ali Modu, AFP
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria–Nigeria’s army said Friday it had killed 95 suspected Boko Haram fighters in raids in the country’s northeast, as gunmen from the Islamist group battled security forces in a neighboring area. The army, which is battling to crush a four-year Islamist uprising in Nigeria, said it deployed bombs and ground troops to destroy insurgent camps in Borno on Thursday. Army spokesman Mohammed Dole said that “74 suspected militants” were killed in the assault outside the Borno capital Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded more than a decade ago.
The operation followed an assault Monday on Boko Haram camps in another part of Borno, which the military said left 37 Islamists dead. In a separate outbreak of violence, suspected Islamist fighters stormed the city of Damaturu in coordinated raids on Thursday, burning at least four police buildings, said a senior police officer who requested anonymity. Army spokesman General Ibrahim Attahiru said in a statement published late Friday that 70 suspected Islamists were killed in Borno state and others fled towards Damaturu where 25 of them were killed by the army. “The insurgents fleeing from the earlier clashes … regrouped to carry out attacks on Damaturu,” said the statement. “Our command post … and other sites around Damaturu were attacked and … 25 insurgents were killed.” The army did not mention any possible civilian casualties. The officer said there were casualties from the attack, which will be seen as a setback in the campaign to end the insurgency. The military had claimed an offensive launched more than four months ago had put Boko Haram on the defensive and left it incapable of attacking major urban centers like Damaturu. Figures released earlier this year said the conflict had cost more than 3,600 lives, including killings by the security forces. The current toll is certainly much higher. Damaturu is the capital of Yobe state, another area repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram in an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.
“They invaded the city in large numbers in vehicles and on foot from different directions,” the officer said.
They then opened fire “on police facilities with guns and explosives and engaged soldiers and policemen in a fierce gunfire exchange that continued deep into the night,” he added. The officer said the insurgents torched the area police command and at least three other police facilities.