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Nigeria military claims it kills 17 Islamists in raid

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Nigeria's military on Friday said it killed 17 insurgents in raids on two "terrorist camps" in the embattled northeastern state of Borno, the base of Islamist group Boko Haram.

The military "conducted two special operations supported by Nigerian Airforce helicopter gunship to dislodge Boko Haram terrorist camps," a statement from spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said.

The statement is the first recent confirmation of a Boko Haram training camp or base, although the military has frequently commented on insurgent safe houses in urban settings.

Musa claimed the insurgents were using territory in the Sambisa Game Reserve and in an area called Ruwa Forest.

"The camp was...fortified and had training facilities," the statement further said.

"Efforts by the JTF (Joint Task Force) to destroy the camps led to a fierce exchange of fire that resulted in the death of 17 Boko Haram terrorists and one JTF personnel was killed," it continued, referring to the January 30 and 31 raids.

Musa, who said the camps had been destroyed, listed a catalogue of items found at the sites, including various weapons and ammunition, as well as communication equipment, food and a generator.

Boko Haram, blamed for killing hundreds in the area since 2009, has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, but its demands have repeatedly shifted.

Violence linked to the Islamists has been intense at times amid periods of relative calm. The insurgency is estimated to have left 3,000 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security services.

Both the police and the JTF have been accused of committing massive rights abuses, including summary executions, during operations against Boko Haram.

A ceasefire declaration from a man claiming to represent the insurgent group sparked intense debate this week, as it was not clear if the individual was a fraud or a legitimate envoy.

The military described the declaration as a welcome development but warned that it would not lead to a halt in operations aimed at stemming the insurgency in Africa's most populous country and top oil producer.

Nigeria has long claimed that Boko Haram has ties to foreign radical groups, including those operating in Mali, where Nigeria has committed to sending 900 troops as part of a west African force to help combat Islamist rebels.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130201/nigeria-military-claims-it-kills-17-islamists-raid