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Fate of Nigerian City Unclear After Boko Haram Attack

  • VOA News

FILE - Women walk by homes destroyed by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria.

FILE - Women walk by homes destroyed by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria.

There are conflicting reports on whether Islamist militants have taken over a city in northeastern Nigeria after a fierce gunbattle with army troops.

Residents and a local politician said Tuesday Boko Haram rebels had seized the military positions in Bama after the air force mistakenly bombed the barrack during intense fighting. Senator Ali Ndume said the attacks have sent thousands of civilians fleeing from the strategic city.

However, a member of the state Civilian Joint Task Force, Jibrin Gunda, tells VOA's Hausa Service that the reports were untrue. Gunda says militants armed with heavy weapons and explosives tried to seize Bama but were repulsed with heavy casualties.

This was Boko Haram's third major attack on Bama, following assaults in May 2013 and February of this year.

In recent weeks, the group has seized parts of Borno state, including the town of Gwoza, for what Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau called an "Islamic caliphate."

The group's stated goal is to establish a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

The militants have killed thousands in the past five years in attacks on schools, markets, places of worship, government buildings and police and military targets.

The Nigerian government has come under intense criticism for failing to stop the insurgency. Analysts have noted the militants appear to be better-armed than the military, which nevertheless has vowed it will not give up any territory to the group.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan went to Nairobi on Tuesday, to take part in an African Union-sponsored meeting on terrorism.

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