Maiduguri - At least 35 people have been killed in two
separate gun battles between Nigerian security forces and Islamist sect Boko
Haram in northeast Borno state, the army said on Monday.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law in Nigeria's
north, and other spin-off Islamist groups have become the biggest threat to
stability in Africa's top oil exporter.
In mid-May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of
emergency and launched an offensive against the group in its stronghold in the
northeast. The insurgency was initially weakened but remains active and is
stretching the army.
Boko Haram gunmen on Sunday attacked a police base in Bama,
a town close to the Cameroon border that has been frequently hit by violence in
"Troops have successfully repelled Boko Haram terrorist
attacks on a police base in Bama ... on 4 August," said military spokesperson
Musa said one policeman and 17 members of Boko Haram were
killed during the fighting, while two soldiers were injured.
He said four trucks, three motorbikes, dozens of explosive
devices, three rocket-propelled grenades, 10 AK47 rifles and over 100 rounds of
ammunition were recovered from the Islamists.
Law and order
Boko Haram members also attacked a military base in the town
of Malam Fatori, triggering a gun battle that left two soldiers and 15 of its
members dead, Musa said.
Nigerian police and military often play down their losses
and those of civilians, security sources say.
Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 and has become
increasingly sophisticated, learning bomb-making techniques from al-Qaeda-linked
militants in the Sahara to the north of Nigeria.
Civilian vigilantes have sprung up to help Nigerian forces
identify and arrest Boko Haram members but there are concerns among some
northeast residents and security experts that the spread of vigilantes could
further break down law and order.
Five people died in clashes on Sunday between two such
vigilante groups over control of the town of Biu in Borno state, witness
Suleiman Barka told Reuters by phone.
Nigeria began last week withdrawing some of its 1 200 troops
from Mali to support security operations at home.