The Joint Task Force (JTF) yesterday claimed it had killed 35 suspected Boko Haram members in a crackdown on the insurgent group in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
“The Joint Task Force has succeeded in killing 35 Boko Haram terrorists in shootouts between Sunday evening through Monday,” said Lieutenant Lazarus Eli, a military spokesman in Yobe State.
A round-the-clock curfew was imposed in the city on Saturday, ahead of the operation that also led to the arrest of 60 suspected Boko Haram members.
The curfew has been relaxed and residents are now allowed out of their homes from 7am to 10pm (0600 GMT to 2100), Eli said. The ban on movements in Yobe’s economic capital of Potiskum has also been eased.
Military forces went door-to-door through three Damaturu neighbourhoods beginning late Sunday and engaged militants in “a fierce exchange of gunfire” through to the early hours of Monday, the spokesman added in a statement.
Two soldiers were injured in the fighting, according to AFP report.
Damaturu has been hit hard by the radical Islamist group which is blamed for more than 1,400 deaths in Nigeria since 2010.
Running gun battles between suspected Boko Haram members and the security forces in June put the city under lockdown, with some stranded in their places of work for several days, unable to access food and water.
A list of weapons that Eli said were recovered from Boko Haram hideouts included dozens of guns, explosive devices and hundreds of rounds of ammunition as well 32 arrows and two swords.
Analysts have said the group has purchased arms from markets in neighbouring Niger and has secured some of the weapons that poured out of Libya following the north African country’s civil war.
Violence blamed on Boko Haram had ebbed in recent weeks, but a suicide blast at a church in Bauchi on Sunday which killed a woman, a child and three others resembled attacks previously claimed by the group.
The JTF said that, last week, it had killed the man who had claimed such attacks on behalf of the group when it shot dead a reported Boko Haram spokesman who used the alias Abul Qaqa outside the city of Kano.
Amid an apparent crackdown on the group’s strongholds, the federal government has said it is engaging in back-channel talks in an effort to halt the violence.
A previous attempt at dialogue this year collapsed when a mediator quit over leaks to the media.
Three of Boko Haram’s leaders have been declared global terrorists by the United States, but Washington has resisted calls to slap a terrorism designation on the entire organisation on grounds that Boko Haram’s primary focus is domestic.