Maiduguri - Suspected Boko Haram Islamists armed with explosives attacked a town in the troubled northeast on Wednesday, sparking a battle with soldiers that killed a large number of insurgents, the military said.
Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told AFP that the early morning attack in the town of Bama may have also included multiple suicide blasts.
Bama is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which is the stronghold of the Islamist rebels who have killed thousands during a four-and-half year insurgency.
"The attackers came from various locations," Olukolade said. "We believe that there were suicide bombers among them. They used bombs during the operation (and) attacked one of our tanks."
He said "many" of the attackers were killed when troops repelled the raid, but could not offer a specific figure or comment on casualties among civilians or the security forces.
Olukolade also said that a "cordon and search operation was ongoing in Bama with a view to apprehending fleeing attackers".
A survivor of the attack said that assailants in their dozens drove into the town around 4:am (0300 GMT) in heavy trucks through a secondary school.
"We realized that they were in hundreds carrying sophisticated weapons. So we had to run as the soldiers on guard also took to their heels," he added.
- 'We saw dead bodies' -
The survivor who said that he escaped to Maiduguri on foot added that his other colleagues ran into a nearby Bama General (government) Hospital before fleeing into the bush.
"The attackers set everywhere ablaze using Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) as they moved".
"As we ran, we kept seeing burnt houses and dead bodies," and others injured, he said without giving details of death toll.
Some of the properties damaged included the Emir of Bama's palace which was slightly touched by the attackers and scores of other houses owned by the residents, he said.
The mobile phone network in Borno is patchy and calls to Bama area residents were not going through on Wednesday.
A police spokesman said details about the attack had been difficult to obtain because of the poor phone network.
Boko Haram says it is fighting to create a strict Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.
The group has since 2009 carried out attacks across the north and centre of the country, but the violence has in recent months been concentrated in the northeast, the region where Boko Haram was founded more than a decade ago.
More than 200 people have been killed in 2014 in Borno state alone.
In the village of Izghe on Saturday suspected Boko Haram gunmen went door-to-door, dragging residents outside before slaughtering them.
Borno's Governor Kashim Shettima said 106 people were killed in Izghe and declared that the military cannot defeat the insurgents unless more troops and military hardware are deployed to the northeast immediately.
The region has been under a state of emergency since May, when the military launched a major offensive to quash the uprising, but the security forces have struggled to contain the violence, which has affected both remote town and state capitals.
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