Nigerian Troops Bombard Militants

Lagos, Nigeria (RPRN) 7/30/2009–Troops in northern Nigeria have attacked a radical Islamist militant group that has been rioting against the government.  Scores of Boko Haram militants fled the regional capital Maiduguri, where fighting was concentrated.  Soldiers have been going door-to-door Thursday to find those who remained.

The militants fought back even as many fled.  Shooting was heard overnight across parts of the city, and militants torched a police station.

Earlier this week, Nigerian forces attacked the sect headquarters containing a mosque and the destroyed the home of group leader Mohammed Yusuf.

The violence began Sunday following the arrest of some of Boko Haram’s leaders.  For five days, the Islamist militants, who advocate northern Nigeria adopt a strict interpretation of Islamic law, have attacked police stations, churches, and government buildings.

Officials say at least 180 people have been killed and some 3,000 temporarily displaced by the fighting.

The continued fighting comes after Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua told reporters late Tuesday that the situation was under control, just before leaving for a short state visit to Brazil.

A dozen of Nigeria’s 36 states have introduced strict Islamic Sharia law in the past decade.  The country is roughly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Islam predominant in the northern part of the country.  Periodic clashes between the two populations have left thousands of people dead in recent years.

On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced alarm over the deadly clashes.  A spokesperson for Mr. Ban said the U.N. chief condemned the “unnecessary loss of human life” and property destruction as a result of the militant attacks.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

Photo credit: Police stand alongside bodies of dead Islamic militants, in the street in front of police headquarters in Maidugiri, Nigeria, 29 Jul 2009, courtesy of VOA News.