July 3, 2015 / 8:39 AM / 2 years ago

Suspected Boko Haram insurgents step up attacks in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked the outskirts of a state capital in northeastern Nigeria on Friday, escalating their attacks after a week of bloodletting in which more than 150 people were killed, military sources said.

Heavy gunfire was heard coming from the fringes of Maiduguri, the capital of Bornoa state, for about half an hour on Friday evening. Military sources said insurgents attacked a village on the edge of the city but were repulsed.

There were no immediate details on casualties.

Boko Haram fighters tried to take Maiduguri a number of times earlier this year before an army offensive drove them out of large chunks of territory.

The militants have since resorted to deadly hit-and-run attacks on settlements and using suicide bombers. They have intensified their strikes since President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to crush them when he was sworn in on May 29.

Before Friday’s attack on Maiduguri, gunmen killed nearly 50 people in a village on Tuesday, rounded up and shot dead about 100 in Kukawa on Wednesday and killed 12 in a dawn raid on another village on Friday. Two suicide bombers killed at least 10 people along a highway on Thursday.

“HEINOUS ATROCITY”

Buhari said the killings in the town of Kukawa were a “heinous atrocity which must be unreservedly condemned by all people of conscience”.

“The attacks killing around 150 people in two villages in northeastern Borno state in Nigeria and targeting Muslim worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan are another attempt to destabilize the country and the region,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

“The EU stands with the Nigerian people and authorities in our common fight against terrorism,” she said.

Thousands of people have been killed and about 1.5 million displaced during Boko Haram’s six-year fight to create an Islamic caliphate in the northeast of Africa’s top oil producer.

Boko Haram controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the end of 2014 before a military offensive seized much of the territory in the first few months of this year.

At dawn on Friday, suspected insurgents raided a village called Miringa in Borno state, selected 12 men and shot them, a military source said. Two suicide bomb blasts near fruit stalls along a highway in the state killed at least 10 people on Thursday, Borno state police said.

Editing by David Clarke, Ralph Boulton and Jonathan Oatis

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