Nigerian security forces said yesterday they had killed a top commander of Islamist sect Boko Haram in its north-eastern stronghold during an offensive that saw several militants killed.
Boko Haram’s insurgency, aimed at carving out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has killed an estimated 2,800 people since an uprising in 2009.
A recent military offensive has reduced the kind of lethal, high-profile attacks the group was carrying out a year ago, but there are still near-daily assaults on civilians and security forces.
“Ibn Saleh Ibrahim was killed alongside his foot soldiers in an offensive attack by combined forces … with helicopters and armoured carriers,” said Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the joint military and police forces in Maiduguri, the capital of north-east Borno state.
Mr Musa said he did not know the precise number of militants killed, but said that the military had not taken any casualties.
Boko Haram is now the biggest security threat to the country. Western diplomats have said it has established growing links with other jihadist groups in the region, including al-Qaeda’s north African wing in neighbouring Niger and Mali.
Mr Musa said Ibn Saleh Ibrahim was behind the assassination of retired General Mamman Shuwa, a key figure in the 1960s civil war, who was shot dead on 2 November in Maiduguri.
Nigerian security officials often trumpet their successes in offensives against Boko Haram, but have been accused of downplaying their own casualty numbers and the deaths of civilians in clashes. Witnesses reported that Nigerian troops shot dead at least 30 people during raids in Maiduguri two weeks ago.
Amnesty International this month accused both sides in the conflict of killing civilians.
The military has claimed a number of successes against Boko Haram in recent months, including the killing of its spokesman and senior ideologue Abu Qaqa in September.