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Military says Islamist sect have fled their base

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-30

Members of a homegrown radical Islamist sect fled their base in the northern city of Maiduguri after the army seized the camp, the Nigerian military has claimed. Four days of fighting in the region has left more than 300 dead and thousands homeless.

AFP - Members of a Nigerian Islamist fundamentalist sect fled the northern city of Maiduguri on Wednesday after the military overran their base, an army commander said.

"We have taken over their enclave, they are on the run and we are going after them," Colonel Ben Ahonotu, who is commanding the operation to rout the self-styled Talibans told AFP after four days of deadly fighting.

Residents of Customs Bridge suburb neighbouring the Bayan Quarters enclave of the group, said they saw a convoy of the militants fleeing their area.

"Some members of the Talibans passed through our neighbourhood in four cars this evening and the leader of the group was rumoured to be in the convoy," a resident Habibu Ismail told AFP on the phone from his house.

Mortar shells and guns ran silent in the lull that followed the military claims of seizing the camp as dusk fell.

Four days of fighting in the north have seen the death toll surging past 300 and thousands of people forced from their homes, the majority in Maiduguri.

Fighting on Wednesday was centred around five neighbourhoods and was at its most intense in Bayan Quarters where Yusuf, the sect's leader, was based.

Yusuf's home was shelled by forces Tuesday night, along with a mosque where many of his followers had gathered, but he appeared to have escaped.

Date created : 2009-07-29

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