MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian soldiers attacked training camps for suspected members of the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram deep in a game reserve in the nation's restive northeast, a raid that left at least 18 people dead, a military spokesman said Friday.
The raid lasted two days in the Sambisa Game Reserve in Borno state, a rural region of the Sahel, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said. Soldiers backed up by attack helicopters assaulted the camps over Wednesday and Thursday, later finding assault rifles, explosives and other material, Musa said.
Musa said the camps were "fortified and had training facilities (and an) armory."
Musa said soldiers killed 17 "Boko Haram terrorists" in the fighting, while one soldier was killed. An Associated Press reporter could not immediately reach local officials Friday about the fighting and there was no independent confirmation of what happened.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north, has been waging an increasingly bloody guerrilla fight against Nigeria's weak central government. Their shootings and bombings have continued, despite officials sending more police officers and soldiers into the north. In 2012, the group was blamed for killing at least 792 people, according to an AP count.
The violence caused by Boko Haram, and the heavy-handed response by Nigerian security forces, has drawn increasing international scrutiny. Human Rights Watch Thursday accused Nigerian security forces and Boko Haram of likely committing crimes against humanity in their fighting. An Amnesty International report released in November made a similar claim and alleged that the Nigerian government is illegally holding hundreds of people suspected of participation in Boko Haram violence in inhumane conditions and without access to lawyers.
On Wednesday night in Mubi, a city in neighboring Adamawa state, soldiers assigned to the city shot dead four young men walking home from watching a soccer game, local resident Josiah Musa told the AP. It was unclear why the soldiers opened fire on them. Lt. Nuhu Jafar, a military spokesman for the state, declined to comment on the shooting.
Associated Press writer Ibrahim Abdul in Yola, Nigeria, contributed this report.