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Jonathan on first visit to north

08 March 2013, 07:28

Damaturu - President Goodluck Jonathan arrived in the region at the heart of a deadly Islamist insurgency on Thursday for his first visit to the restive northeastern area since winning 2011 elections.

Jonathan landed in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and considered the home base of Islamist extremists Boko Haram, and travelled on by helicopter to neighbouring Yobe state, also hit by repeated attacks.

Security was tight, with soldiers stationed along roads and movement restricted. He is due to return to Maiduguri later Thursday for a visit that will extend into Friday.

"The president arrived in Damaturu around noon aboard a helicopter from Maiduguri," Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the Yobe state governor, told AFP, referring to the capital of the state.

The visit comes with Jonathan facing political pressure to visit the northeast, wracked by scores of bombings and shootings blamed on Boko Haram. The military has been accused of major abuses in response to the insurgency.

It is also the region where seven members of a French family were believed taken after being kidnapped on February 19 just over the border in Cameroon. They remain held by the abductors and their whereabouts are unknown.

There have been growing calls for Jonathan, a Christian from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region, to visit the area.

A group of opposition state governors visited Maiduguri last week, drawing further attention to Jonathan's absence there.

After landing, Jonathan went into talks with Yobe governor Ibrahim Geidam and was due to help commission a number of government projects.

Violence linked to Boko Haram's insurgency in northern and central Nigeria has left some 3 000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.



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