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Nigeria Extends State of Emergency in Northeast

FILE - Residents watch as two men walk amidst rubble after Boko Haram militants raided the town of Benisheik, west of Borno State capital Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sept. 19, 2013.
Nigerian lawmakers have approved a six-month extension of the state of emergency in areas where troops are fighting Islamist militants.

The lower house of parliament voted in favor of the extension Wednesday, 12 days after it won approval in the senate.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa back in May, as part of efforts to defeat militant group Boko Haram.

The Nigerian military says it has killed scores of militants and destroyed several of the group's camps, but attacks against civilians continue.

Boko Haram is blamed for thousands of deaths in attacks since 2009. Last week, the United States designated the group and an offshoot, Ansaru, as terrorist organizations.

Boko Haram is believed to want to impose strict Islamic law across Nigeria's Muslim-majority north. The fight against the group is complicated by uncertainty about its structure and leadership, and questions about whether criminals are using the group's name as cover for their activities.

Rights groups have also accused the military of using indiscriminate and heavy-handed violence in its efforts to crush the group, and causing hundreds of civilian deaths.