Nearly 200 militants belonging to the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram were killed in clashes with government forces near the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the Associated Press, or AP, reported Saturday, citing security officials.
A senior Boko Haram commander, known only as Amir, was also reportedly killed in a the fighting, which erupted late Friday in Konduga town -- about 22 miles southeast of the Borno State capital of Maiduguri -- and lasted for several hours. No military casualties were reported in the attack, AP reported.
Meanwhile, militants of Boko Haram have reportedly surrounded Maiduguri and are planning to launch an attack on the strategically important city. Nigerian troops have been placed on high alert following reports of an imminent attack.
“We have firmed up and upgraded all the defense arrangements around Maiduguri city and the environs to ensure that terrorists and their allies don’t find it easy to assault that town,” Major General Chris Olukolade, a Nigerian military spokesperson, told Voice of America.
Borno Elders Forum -- a group of influential people in the state, including former ministers and civil servants -- however, warned that the military needed to “urgently fortify” the city, which is also the birthplace of Boko Haram, to prevent an attack “from all directions,” the BBC reported.
“We are convinced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not shown sufficient political will to fight Boko Haram and rescue us from the clutches of the insurgents, which may ultimately lead to the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno,” Borno Elders Forum, or BEF, reportedly said.
In recent months, Boko Haram has extended its gains by capturing nearly 200 miles of territory along Nigeria’s northeastern border with Cameroon. In August, the militant Islamist group announced the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in the captured territories -- a claim the Nigerian government rejected.
The group, which seeks to govern the captured territories in accordance with a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law, has reportedly killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 people this year alone.