Sunday, November 9, 2014 12:14 am
*Dozens killed and many wounded in the town of Malam Fatori
*Nigerian troops flee into Niger Republic
Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has seized control of a Nigerian town near the Niger border, leading soldiers to flee and adding to its expanding reach in the region, an official said Saturday.
The insurgents were said to have taken control of Malam Fatori in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state after fighting on Wednesday and Thursday, a senior official in the Niger town of Diffa near Nigeria told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The fighting killed dozens and wounded about 30 people in the commercial hub known for fishing and farming, the Anfani radio station in Diffa reported.
“The town of Malam Fatori was taken by Boko Haram after violent fighting with the Nigerian army overnight Wednesday to Thursday,” said the official in Diffa, where thousands of refugees from the conflict have fled to.
According to the official, 315 Nigerian soldiers fled over the border to Diffa. Thirteen who were wounded were treated in a Diffa hospital, while the others have been repatriated.
The official’s version of events differed from the one given by a Nigerian senator, who on Thursday spoke of the attack but did not say that the town had been taken.
Senator Maina Maaji Lawan said the insurgents met stiff resistance from soldiers from a multi-national task force in the region that includes troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger.
Lawan however also said that soldiers were later forced to flee after being overpowered by the insurgents. He said that 21 civilians were killed.
Boko Haram has killed thousands in its five-year insurgency in Nigeria, and it has in recent months taken control of a growing number of areas in the country’s northeast.
It has occasionally carried out cross-border attacks, and another such raid occurred on Saturday in Cameroon.
In that attack, Boko Haram members attacked a Cameroon border town, leading to six hours of fighting that killed a soldier and several insurgents, authorities said.
The attack occurred in Kerawa, near areas of Nigeria recently taken over by Boko Haram. The nearby Mandara mountains have been used as a hideout by Boko Haram members.
“Boko Haram attacked Kerawa around 4:00 am (0300 GMT),” a police officer in the region said on condition of anonymity.
“A man from the BIR (elite army unit) was killed. Several assailants were also killed.”
He said gun battles between the extremists and soldiers rocked the area until around 10:00 am.
Cameroon has reinforced its military presence in the region in a bid to stop an escalation in attacks by Boko Haram. On October 17, the military claimed to have killed 107 Islamists during intense fighting that also left eight soldiers dead.
Ten Chinese and 17 local hostages were kidnapped earlier this year in Cameroon in raids blamed on Boko Haram. They were released last month.