Suspected Boko Haram Islamists attacked a town in Nigeria's troubled northeast early on Wednesday, the military said, sparking a firefight with security forces.
Defence ministry spokesman Chris Olukolade said that the early morning attack in the town of Bama may have involved multiple suicide blasts, but that no casualty figures were immediately available.
"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."
Olukolade said "many" of the attackers were killed when Nigerian troops repelled the raid, but he did not know how many casualties had been suffered by civilians or the security forces.
Bama is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which is the stronghold of the Boko Haram rebels who have killed thousands during a four-and-half year insurgency aimed at establishing sharia, or Islamic, law in the country.
A police spokesman said details about the attack had been difficult to obtain because of the poor phone network. The mobile phone network in Borno is patchy and calls to Bama area residents were not going through on Wednesday.
The latest violence came just a day after a presidential spokesman said Nigeria was winning the war against Boko Haram Islamists in the restive northeast, dismissing suggestions the insurgents were gaining the upper hand.
"We state authoritatively without any fear or equivocation whatsoever that Nigeria is already winning the war against terror and the activities of the insurgents will be terminated within the shortest possible time," Doyin Okupe told reporters in Abuja on Tuesday.
Violence moves northeast
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create a strict Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.
Since 2009 the group has 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 so far 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 security forces have struggled to contain the violence, which has affected both remote towns and state capitals.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-19