Nigeria military in Boko Haram crackdown
Agence France-Presse in Kano, Nigeria
Nigeria’s military said on Tuesday that it has killed a senior Boko Haram Islamist leader and arrested 156 suspected members of the group during a weekend raid in northeastern Adamawa state.
“In the three-day operation, the town was placed under 24-hour curfew, which enabled soldiers to comb the nooks and corners,” said Lieutenant Saleh Mohammed Buba, military spokesman in Adamawa.
“A total of 156 suspects were rounded up in raids of suspected (Boko Haram) hideouts. A sect commander known as Abubakar Yola who went by the alias Abu Jihad was shot dead in a shootout while trying to flee,” he added.
The detained suspected gunmen would soon be produced in court, Buba said.
The operation was carried out in the town of Mubi, not far from the city of Maiduguri in neighbouring Borno state, which is considered the base of the Islamist group that is blamed for killing more than 1,400 people in Nigeria since 2010.
The spokesman said about 300 explosive devices were discovered in what he described as an armoury used by the sect, where about two dozen AK-47 guns were also being stored.
The military has claimed a series of successes against the group during weekend operations in several cities in the northeast, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency.
However, previous such raids have failed to stop Boko Haram and resulted in accusations of major abuses by soldiers.
In Damaturu, the military said it killed 35 suspected Boko Haram members in fierce gun battles from late Sunday into the early hours of Monday morning. Some 60 people were also arrested there following the door-to-door sweep in several neighbourhoods.
Like Mubi, Damaturu was placed under round-the-clock curfew ahead of the military operation, but the curfew has since been relaxed.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram claimed arson attacks on about two dozen telecommunication masts across northern Nigeria, with Mubi and Damaturu among the areas hit.
The attacks disrupted mobile phone service across the region, but regular service has since been re-established in most areas.
Violence blamed on Boko Haram had ebbed in recent weeks, but a suicide bombing at a church in the northern city of Bauchi on Sunday which killed a woman and a child resembled attacks previously claimed by the group.
Rights groups have accused Nigeria’s military of using heavy-handed tactics in previous operations against Boko Haram targets, including allegations of indiscriminate arrests.
Amid an apparent crackdown on the group’s strongholds, Nigeria has said it is engaging in back-channel talks in an effort to halt the violence.