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Nigerian Authorities say Islamist Sect Fleeing

Nigerian government forces say they are in hot pursuit of a fundamentalist Islamic sect in the northern city of Maiduguri.

Sounds of heavy and light machine gun fire rattled Maiduguri as Nigeria's army pounded suspected hideouts of the Islamic rebels in a bid to flush out remnants of the militant Boko Haram sect. Army commanders say it is only a matter of time before the Taliban-style group would be completely destroyed.

Security forces have also launched a door-to-door search for members of the group. State officials say the leader of the militants, Mohammed Yusuf, may have escaped the military onslaught and fled with hundreds of his supporters.

Government forces say they killed the deputy leader of the sect and appealed to the public to help in tracking fleeing members of the group.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, has been the center of violence in northern Nigeria that started Sunday when militants attacked a police station in Bauchi.

President Umaru Yar'Adua had ordered troops to crush the movement "once for all." But many were not impressed with the government's response to the crisis.

A security analyst in Lagos, Patrick Keku, says the government has not paid enough attention to security issues, despite the country's numerous crises.

"In the present dispensation [situation] we are in this country, we are pregnant with a lot of problems," he said. "With that, I expect the security agencies to be 24-hours alert. But sometimes I would say, the government does not take security seriously enough unless it happens. Because certain things that government should provide to enhance those people doing the job are not there."

About 300 people have been killed in four days of clashes between security forces and militants seeking to impose Islamic law throughout Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria's 150 million people are roughly split between Muslims and Christians.