Nigerian Forces Say Shootout Kills 16 Militants

Posted June 5th, 2012 at 11:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Nigerian forces say they have killed 16 suspected Islamic militants in a shootout in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

The Nigerian Joint Task Force field commander, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, said the fighting late Tuesday occurred around the densely populated Lawan Bukar and Shehuri areas of the city. He said Nigerian forces seized weapons and ammunition from the suspects and destroyed some of their home-made bombs.

Maiduguri is the home city of the militant sect Boko Haram, which says it wants to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria and does not recognize the government or the country's constitution.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing Sunday at a church in the city of Bauchi that killed at least 15 people. Boko Haram has bombed churches before, including one near the capital, Abuja, last Christmas, in which more than 30 people died.

The militants are blamed for hundreds of killings in Nigeria, mostly in the north, since 2009.

The country of 150 million is about evenly divided between Muslims, who live mostly in the north, and Christians who dominate the south.