Nigerian army says kills six Islamist insurgents in raid

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian soldiers killed six suspected Islamist insurgents during a raid on a house in the main northern city of Kano on Friday but lost one soldier in the gunbattle, the military said.

Radical sect Boko Haram and other Islamist groups have become the main threat to stability in Africa's top oil-producer and a growing menace to neighbours like Cameroon.

Boko Haram has killed many hundreds in gun and bomb attacks, including 25 in Kano last month, since it intensified an insurgency two years ago, with the aim of carving an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria.

"During the operation this morning a soldier and six terrorists were killed," military task force spokesman Ikedichi Iweha told reporters.

Nigeria's military rarely admits significant casualties amongst its own ranks or civilian deaths in shootouts.

Iweha said soldiers recovered weapons, including improvised explosive devices, before demolishing the house where the insurgents were living.

Western governments fear that ties with groups like al Qaeda's North African wing are pulling Nigerian Islamists towards a more explicitly anti-Western agenda.

Al Qaeda-affiliated Nigerian group Ansaru said last month it had killed seven foreign hostages seized on February 7 in the northern state of Bauchi because of attempts to free them.

A French family was kidnapped from north Cameroon in February and is believed held by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Northern traditional leaders have appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to declare an amnesty for Boko Haram fighters who lay down their weapons, like the one that ended years of militancy in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta.

Presidency sources say Jonathan is considering such a move, but he has said in the past the Islamists must identify themselves, which so far they have been unwilling to do.

(Reporting by Chukwuemeka Madu; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Tim Cocks)