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Boko Haram attacks NE Nigerian city, dozens dead

Boko Haram attacks NE Nigerian city, dozens dead
Dozens of combatants have been killed and wounded, soldiers and hospital workers said. “Coordinated air and land operations are being conducted now,” Defense Ministry spokesman Brig Gen Chris Olukolade said in a message posted on Twitter.

Troops blocked roads leading into the city, which also is preventing civilians from escaping. “We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk,” Amnesty International said. The attacks come the day US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital nearly 1,000 miles (more than 1,500 kilometres) southwest of Maiduguri.

Aides said Kerry is concerned about possible violence around Nigeria’s February 14 elections and will meet with the main contenders, President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri 10 days ago and pledged to crush the insurgents. But his repeated promises are ringing hollow as Boko Haram since August has seized and kept control of large swaths of the northeast, including key border crossings into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Boko Haram has denounced democracy and is fighting to impose its strict version of Shariah law across Nigeria, whose population of about 170 million is divided almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. The extremists attacked on three fronts around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, soon after midnight and troops battled to hold them at bay, according to an officer involved in the fighting.  He said he saw dozens of combatants killed.

A hospital worker said they are treating dozens of wounded soldiers. Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the press. Boko Haram on January 3 seized a key military base and town on the border with Cameroon, killing hundreds of civilians and leaving the main road open to Maiduguri. The military said they were counter-attacking a week ago. But escaping civilians said there was no fighting and the insurgents retain control of Baga.

Boko Haram frees 192 held in northeast Nigeria

Boko Haram has released nearly 200 hostages, most of them women, who were kidnapped from a village in the northeast Nigerian state of Yobe, a community leader and a military said. A total of 192 people were released on Friday from two Islamist enclaves, where they had been kept since a January 6 raid on Katarko, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the state capital Damaturu.  In all, 218 women and children were abducted.

“Boko Haram have released 192 of our women they kidnapped early this month,” Goni Mari, a Katarko community leader said from Damaturu. “They brought them in two batches in four trucks and dropped them at Girbuwa village, eight kilometres from Damaturu, from where we conveyed them to the city and they were taken into government custody.”


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