MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Islamist militants have overrun an army base in the remote northeast Nigerian town of Baga, two security sources said on Sunday.
Baga is notionally the headquarters of a multinational force comprising troops from Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, although only Nigerian troops are actually stationed there.
Troops eventually fled the remote station on the semi-desert shores of Lake Chad after it was attacked on Saturday by Boko Haram fighters in military vehicles, both sources said. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The insurgency has killed over 10,000 people this year, according to a count by the Council on Foreign Relations in November. It is the gravest threat to Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, and a headache for President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of an election on Feb. 14 where he is being challenged by opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler seen as tough on security.
After beginning their fight for an Islamic state five years ago in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the militants have radiated outwards into porous border areas, threatening Nigeria’s neighbors around the Lake Chad Basin.
In northern Cameroon, at least 15 people died in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a bus, officials said on Saturday.
Cameroon’s army has been trying to dislodge the Islamists from its Far North region with the help of air strikes.
Nigerian Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou said late last month that his country was ready to negotiate with Boko Haram, but did not even know who in the group to talk to.
Baga came into the international spotlight early in 2013, when dozens of people, mostly civilians, were killed in fighting between the multinational force and Boko Haram. Many were burned alive in their thatched houses.
The militants have also kidnapped hundreds of mostly young people in the past year. On Wednesday, gunmen abducted 40 boys and young men from the remote village of Malari, in a raid that residents and a security source blamed on Boko Haram.
The parents of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April have said they said will ask the United Nations for help after losing faith in their own government.
Reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Kevin Liffey